With the announcement from Johnson Controls of a new citywide energy and water conservation program, Mayor Philip Craighead's challenger in the upcoming mayoral race thinks energy savings is always a good idea, but he's skeptical about claims the plan will create more than 200 local jobs.
"I fully support the Smarter Lebanon Initiative because of its energy savings and long-term financial benefits to the city. The financial benefits of $11 million are substantial and will accumulate over a 15-year period," O'Brien said. "The mayor and city council approved this contract some time ago along with the agreement to fund the project over the same 15-year period with an $8 million bond issue."
As to the job creation claims, O'Brien thinks that might not be the case.
"I find it difficult, however, to understand where the additional 200 local jobs will come from. I realize that Johnson Controls received a multi-million contract for the initiative, but Johnson Controls also is in charge of all subcontracting for the entire project," he said. "Are these the jobs the mayor mentions? The project is scheduled to be complete by December 2013. This is not a long-term job creation program, although it was never intended to be; it was and is an energy-savings program."
O'Brien was a good sport about the timing of the announcement during the stretch of the campaign season, while Craighead said he had not anticipated Johnson Controls would be issuing a press release so quickly.
The Smarter Lebanon initiative will include a variety of lighting, water, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems upgrades in 13 city buildings and will include improvements to the water distribution system and the installation of nearly 7,000 water meters throughout the city. Another feature of the program is an automated meter reading and leak detection system, which is designed to conserve more than 420 million gallons of water annually.
The mayor said the potential savings for the city could be significant, and similar programs from Johnson Controls have proved to be successful in the county schools. The company also guarantees utility savings over time, or Johnson Controls pays the difference between the value of the measured and verified consumption and the guaranteed consumption under the contract.
Craighead said workers were Wednesday around the city doing some of the preliminary work to get the program off the ground.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.