Hamilton County planning to test CNG-fueled vehicles

March 10, 2014
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Faced with double-digit increases in annual utility costs—and the promise of more to come—Hamilton County has been trying to make its 31 buildings more efficient. Before long, it could start producing some power of its own.

As IBJ reported this week, county commissioners are working on a plan to install rooftop solar panels on public buildings. (Subscribers: Catch up here.) But they’re also looking to take their energy-savings efforts on the road.

If County Council approves the expenditure, officials hope to begin converting county-owned vehicles to run on compressed natural gas. It doesn’t take a mathematician to see the benefit of filling tanks for less than $1 a gallon.

It costs about $6,000 to retrofit a gasoline-fed vehicle to run on either fuel, said Buildings and Grounds chief Steve Wood. The biggest expense (about $1.5 million at last estimate) would be adding a CNG filling station to service the county’s fleet.

Proponents have been researching the technology for about a year, Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt said, and a formal funding request could come as soon as this month.

“We had a positive meeting” with council members who offered input on the CNG project, Heirbrandt said.

Officials have been working to cut utility costs for years as the county adjusts to state tax caps and other funding challenges. First up were LED lighting and better building-control systems. Today, commissioners are expected to vote on a contract with Indianapolis-based Johnson Melloh Solutions for about $1.3 million in equipment upgrades.

Rather than refurbish the 21-year-old Government Center chillers, for example, crews will replace them with energy-efficient air compressors. The all-electric building also will get natural gas service.

While they’re working on those projects, contractors will prepare the roof for a planned building expansion and the possible solar installation.

Wood praised the commissioners’ effort to come up with a comprehensive approach to finding utility savings.

“They’re looking at what we can do to reduce energy use, improve air quality and make the greatest impact on taxpayers,” said Wood, who also serves on the Noblesville Common Council.


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  1. How can any company that has the cash and other assets be allowed to simply foreclose and not pay the debt? Simon, pay the debt and sell the property yourself. Don't just stiff the bank with the loan and require them to find a buyer.

  2. If you only knew....

  3. The proposal is structured in such a way that a private company (who has competitors in the marketplace) has struck a deal to get "financing" through utility ratepayers via IPL. Competitors to BlueIndy are at disadvantage now. The story isn't "how green can we be" but how creative "financing" through captive ratepayers benefits a company whose proposal should sink or float in the competitive marketplace without customer funding. If it was a great idea there would be financing available. IBJ needs to be doing a story on the utility ratemaking piece of this (which is pretty complicated) but instead it suggests that folks are whining about paying for being green.

  4. The facts contained in your post make your position so much more credible than those based on sheer emotion. Thanks for enlightening us.

  5. Please consider a couple of economic realities: First, retail is more consolidated now than it was when malls like this were built. There used to be many department stores. Now, in essence, there is one--Macy's. Right off, you've eliminated the need for multiple anchor stores in malls. And in-line retailers have consolidated or folded or have stopped building new stores because so much of their business is now online. The Limited, for example, Next, malls are closing all over the country, even some of the former gems are now derelict.Times change. And finally, as the income level of any particular area declines, so do the retail offerings. Sad, but true.