The Marietta Times: Energy Project Working Well

The city of Belpre is continuing energy-saving changes with Ameresco Inc. with good results.

‘‘I think everything is going great,’’ said Mayor Bill McAfee. ‘‘We’re very well satisfied with it.’’

In August, Belpre City Council approved the project with Ameresco Inc., an energy solutions company, to renovate the city’s sewage treatment plant, replace all water meters in the city and install energy-saving street and traffic lights throughout the city. Work began in October and has had a few snags, but is running on schedule, said Paul LaPrise, project manager for Ameresco. ‘‘This is a nice gig for the city, and everybody seems to be happy with the work,’’ LaPrise said.

The total cost of the project is $8.5 million, which has some residents unhappy, but Belpre Safety-Service Director Dale Myers said, with cost factors, the city could not have done it for less money. ‘‘The big thing the public needs to know is that these projects are being done at today’s price, and … we’re going to save hundreds of thousands of dollars by doing it now rather than over the next 10 years,’’ he said.

In the past two years, the cost of equipment has risen 50 percent, Myers said. ‘‘If we waited to do any of this later we would be spending more than double the money,’’ he said.

The water meter replacement project is more than halfway finished with 2,600 of roughly 3,500 meters installed, LaPrise said. ‘‘I anticipate the water meters being done at the end of April, maybe earlier,’’ he said. ‘‘With these changes, the city will be able to read all the city’s meters in a few hours as compared to a few weeks.’’

The new water meters are accurate and are read by an electronic device that allows the city worker to read the meters while driving by, which saves on labor, Myers said.

The largest part of the Ameresco project is the renovation of the city sewer treatment plant, which is nearly half of the project’s total cost at more than $4 million. Myers said improvements to the plant include revamping the anaerobic digester, rebuilding the two final clarifiers and building a laboratory, which will meet Environmental Protection Agency standards.

‘‘The wastewater treatment plant was going to have to be done regardless of the Ameresco project,’’ Myers said. ‘‘We have not been EPA compliant with our lab since the plant was built in the early 1960s and now we’re going to be compliant with everything.’’

Residents in the Blennerhassett Avenue area of Belpre have complained about the smell because the digester has not worked properly in years. LaPrise said there will be two new clarifiers and a new digesting system at the plant as well as a state-of-the-art laboratory for sample testing.

Other projects include updating traffic signals with more efficient lights that use less energy and are brighter, Myers said. ‘‘It is using about two-thirds less energy to operate the lights that have a several-year warranty and the bulbs are more durable without being replaced as often,’’ he said.

Another large part of the project is the new swimming pool. McAfee said the pool project is ahead of schedule and things appear to be in order for the pool to open for Memorial Day weekend. ‘‘Not only will we have a new pool with a stainless steel liner, but there will be a retaining wall to keep drainage out of the pool as well as sod beaches,’’ Myers said.

LaPrise said the pool complex will also have a new children’s pool, large picnic area and water toys for children. ‘‘To my belief, this is going to be the best looking pool in the area,’’ LaPrise said.

As a way to help pay for the water meter and sewage treatment portions of the Ameresco project, the city has implemented a 10 percent water and sewer rate increase that went into effect Jan. 1, with plans to implement two more 10 percent increases in 2008 and 2009. ‘‘There is no way we could have completed many of these projects without Ameresco,’’ Myers said. ‘‘This project is probably the best thing to happen to this city.’’

[Reprinted with permission from The Marietta Times]


Ameresco: CarolAnn Hibbard, 508-661-2264, [email protected]