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Polk County eyes energy savings plan

By Brian Besch
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LIVINGSTON – Tuesday's meeting of the Polk County Commissioners Court heard a presentation from Way Companies and Polk Central Appraisal District.

The Way Companies informed the court of a program that could potentially save the county money on its energy. The company's objective is to fund infrastructure upgrades to create a positive cash flow so that money may be invested back into the county.

The count would spend no capital upfront and would pay the Way Company fees from the difference in energy savings.

The projects usually last around 10-15 years. A team of engineers, financial advisors and technical employees toured the county during a feasibility study, monitoring buildings and infrastructure.

The company is looking to go a step further, with what they call a "detailed audit," where they would confirm findings to this point and work with the county to find solutions.

The group would install LED lighting countywide, retrofit old air conditioners and install a computer control system in the jail. The latter of those would save water, maintenance and operational costs by giving corrections officers more control over the cells without having to be inside them.

The annual savings for the county is expected to be around $234,000, something that is expected to increase three percent yearly as energy costs rise. The fees Way Companies would charge would total approximately $197,000 each year, creating a 15-year savings of nearly $1.4 million.

According to the State of Texas, the agreement would be a performance contract, which must be guaranteed by Way Companies and is audited every year. At the end of the year, if the savings do not match what the company says they are, the company must write a check to the county for the difference.

The program was established in the mid-1980s and has already been installed in Liberty County, where representatives have given positive reviews. If approved, the program could start by May of next year.
Pct. 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet made a motion to approve the program, but Pct. 1 Commissioner Bob Willis suggested it be tabled for research. The item will be revisited in two weeks.

The court heard a report from the Polk Central Appraisal District regarding the 2015 mineral valuations. Mineral investor contractors have made several miscues impacting the overall total amount reported.

One error is large, totaling $8 million in value, equating to around $50,000 in county tax money. The errors were said to be clerical data entry mistakes into the Polk CAD appraisal system. Other counties have also experienced errors.

The district is putting steps in place to prevent similar oversights from occurring. Contractors have completely revamped their quality control systems. The CAD will require any mineral contractor to have at least $1 million insurance in error and omission insurance. Every signed settlement and waiver will be sent to management for review.

Willis suggested that the Polk CAD "look long and hard before they renew that contract."

The county's yearly activity report revealed that a total of 124 positions within the county have been posted over the past year. The human resources department has processed 38 resignations, 17 retirements, seven dismissals and seven separations.