County eyes $5.5 million lease to finance modernization projects
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ABM Building Solutions LLC has completed an extensive energy audit of Grady County government facilities and those findings were presented to the Grady County Commission Tuesday night.
Jason Anderson of ABM shared the audit findings that revealed the majority of the heating and air conditioning systems are in need of replacement, having in many instances, outlasted their useful life. The board authorized the firm to conduct the audit in January following a previous meeting with the firm in August 2019.
Anderson said a large number of HVAC units at county facilities are no longer efficient to operate and within three years the county could be looking at spending $1,750,000 on new HVAC systems.
The ABM audit also indicated that most county buildings should be better sealed and insulated with high humidity being an issue in certain buildings.
“The lighting you have in every building is not very efficient and we would recommend installing all-new LED lighting, which is long lasting and very efficient,” Anderson said.
In addition to new HVAC and lighting, ABM also documented areas for water conservation, particularly at the Grady County Detention Center.
Also at the jail, as part of the recommended redesign of the HVAC systems at the Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center, ABM is recommending the jail pods be heated and cooled.
Commissioner June Knight questioned Anderson on the recommendation to heat and cool the inmate areas of the facility.
Anderson admitted it was a political issue, but he said that the county is already paying the cost of not having it through other costs such as higher inmate health care costs. “The heat and humidity at the jail is a huge problem,” Anderson said.
Commissioner Ray Prince also stated, “It’s not like it will be set at 72 degrees in there.” Anderson concurred and said the sheriff would be able to set the temperature at whatever he decided. According to Anderson, Grady County’s jail is one of the only ones in the state he is aware of that is not heated and cooled.
Commissioner Phillip Drew said that ABM’s recommendations were to make the entire facility more energy efficient.
The county had also asked ABM to evaluate the roof of the courthouse, which the firm determined needed replacement. That project has been included in firm’s scope of work and will include replacement of the flat portion of the courthouse roof as well as the shingled portion.
To better conserve water and reduce expense, ABM is putting forward a conservation program at the detention center, that could limit the number of times toilets in the jail cells can be flushed in a given period.
Modifications are planned at all county facilities and the total estimated cost of the project is $5.5 million. If the county gives the final go-ahead on the project, the county would enter into a lease agreement with a 15-year fixed term of 2.66 percent and amortized over the term of the lease the county’s total expense is $7,037,450. However, ABM is guaranteeing the county savings over that 15-year period of $7,062,757.
According to Anderson, if the county does not realize the savings that are projected, ABM writes the county a check for the difference. If the county realizes greater savings than projected, the county has that additional revenue to invest or spend as necessary.
“We don’t have to write many checks,” Anderson said. He shared a story that he had previously told about ABM’s experience with Pelham City Schools. The school system in Pelham came up short on the projected savings and ABM had to write the school system a check for approximately $55,000. However, Anderson said ABM went back in and identified what issues had been missed in its audit that resulted in the lower savings and corrected it at ABM’s expense.
“This is budget neutral so it is not costing our taxpayers anything and you’re setting us up to be energy efficient and proactive,” Commissioner Drew said.
Grady County Commission Chairman Keith Moye asked if local vendors would be considered with the ABM project. Anderson said the firm would be happy to entertain offers from local firms and said they had done work with local firms in the past in other communities on other projects.
The ABM official suggested that any local vendor interested in being involved in the project to contact Grady County Administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, at (229) 377-1512 and he could put them in touch with ABM.
Commissioner June Knight said it was important to the board that ABM do as much business with local firms as possible.
Administrator Johnson recommended the board proceed with the project by authorizing Chairman Moye to execute a resolution Tuesday night. If all goes as planned, ABM could present additional information and formal action on the transaction could take place September 1. Based on that timeline, work could begin in October and would be completed by September 2021. The county’s first lease payment would not be due until September or October of 2022, according to Anderson.
The Grady County School System entered into a $14.5 million contract with ABM Building Solutions LLC in April 2019 for a similar project in the county’s schools.