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City of Rome, NY

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Rome, NY, self-funds infrastructure improvements through energy cost savings

The challenge: Making essential city infrastructure upgrades without raising taxes

The city of Rome in upstate New York needed to attract new businesses to boost a sagging local economy. In order to do so, city leaders had to make significant infrastructure improvements, including expanding and upgrading their wastewater treatment plant to accommodate an influx of new businesses. At the time, however, their tax base was shrinking, their local budget had to be cut, and state budget cuts meant little or no funding was available to help. Yet leaving the plant in its current condition was not an option. The old plant's inefficiencies and the expense of custom parts could cost the city approximately $1.2 million. The city of Rome needed a mechanism to pay for these critical improvements that would not cost their residents any more in taxes.

It is crucial that we use energy at all of our facilities as efficiently as possible, both for economical and for ecological reasons. Through our partnership with Johnson Controls, we’ve been able to lower our costs and reduce our energy consumption while at the same time strengthening our ability to support the needs of current and future customers. – James Brown,Mayor, City of Rome, NY

The solution: A performance contract generating energy savings to fund improvements

The city returned to work with Johnson Controls following a positive experience when they teamed up together on a performance contract back in 2007. That collaboration resulted in numerous energy efficiency improvements, such as upgraded lighting, a new more efficient boiler and deployment of an energy management system. Those improvements paid for themselves by lowering utility costs by approximately $2.8 million over the term of the agreement.

In 2008, the city again reached out to Johnson Controls. Under a new 15-year performance contract, Johnson Controls would expand and modernize the wastewater treatment plant and implement a broad range of energy saving upgrades. The plan was to use savings from these efforts to help fund the projects rather than raise taxes.

Project financing came from a tax-exempt municipal lease made possible by New York State's Energy Performance Contracting Legislation which applies to city-owned facilities.

Johnson Controls modernized the wastewater treatment plant, replacing old mechanical aerators with a state-of-the-art fine bubble aeration system and adding new, more efficient blowers and other components that significantly reduced the plant's energy consumption.

In addition, Johnson Controls improved the energy efficiency of numerous city buildings, including City Hall, the central fire station, police department offices and the Rome Arts Center. This included installing new boilers, high efficiency lighting, and automated energy management systems. The resulting estimated utility savings are expected to enable the city to make these improvements at no cost to local taxpayers.

Results and benefits

Savings are projected to be $8.6 million over the 15-year term of the performance contract, and continue even after the contract ends. The city is also able to generate additional revenue by treating wastewater from landfill leachate. Beyond the financial benefits, the project also helped the city of Rome reduce its carbon footprint. For these efforts, the city of Rome garnered some notable recognition. The project was named 2009 Environmental Protection Project of the Year by the American Public Works Association.

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