Patchogue Village is aiming to become energy awesome.
The village signed a project development agreement last week with Johnson Controls for a detailed energy audit after village board approval on Oct. 13.
“It would be on all facilities: HVAC, lighting, weatherization, roofs and renewable energy, as well as village parking lot lighting and offering opportunities for improvements,” explained Johnson Controls performance infrastructure account executive Chris Fitzsimmons after signing the contract last Friday.
The study will take six to eight weeks.
After that, “We’ll decide whether to pursue or not to pursue Johnson Controls addressing the solutions,” said village special projects coordinator Dennis Smith. That will be announced at a village board meeting, but the audit won’t cost the taxpayer, he emphasized.
Mayor Paul Pontieri signed the contract last Wednesday before flying out to Colorado.
“[Trustee] Joe Keyes has had his environmental PEP [Protecting the Environment of Patchogue] committee going on the last few years and we talked about ‘how do we bring the village into the 21st century?’” he said. “This plan is about the future and the generations that follow us. Usually, governments think about today when it should be about the generations of the future. We could talk about that the lights will be brighter and we’ll save fuel, but as a package, but it’s much bigger than that.”
So far, the village is leaning towards the total project.
“We pay $550,000 a year in utility costs,” explained Smith. “If we reduce it to $250,000 and if we continue with Johnson for improvements, it will give us $250,000 to upgrade. It could be a new Patchogue Theatre roof, aging pipes or boilers in DPW or Village Hall.”
Keyes and Smith called it a budget-neutral program.
“The detailed audit will tell us how much money we’ll need,” said Keyes. “Johnson researches banks to find the best rates. Then we choose. It would be like a 20-year escrow account. They get an account of all of our utility expenses. If the price tag is $6 million for upgrades, the bank will hold $6 million in escrow. So if Johnson puts on a new theatre roof, they draw from that and they give us a guaranteed savings.”
“They won’t go over the escrow amount from their assessment with the energy-efficient measures in place,” added Smith.
Should the village not pursue the suggested energy improvements with Johnson, the village pays Johnson $55,000 and gets to keep the report.
If the project does go forward, that $55,000 would be included in the project cost, with Johnson staff performing all upgrades.
Keyes, a trustee for 11 years, initiated the village plastic bag ban in 2015 and oversees the Patchogue Green Business program. He has introduced bikes to the village and came up with Green Business Awards as well.
“We have an engine-idling restriction; did a buffer in a bag program with seedling trees for people to plant near waterways to prevent erosion; we trolled the Patchogue River and the Great South Bay to collect debris three or four times with St. Joseph’s College students several times. Now comes the education part in changing people’s behavior. Brookhaven Town was so impressed with what we did, they embarked on a similar program in Port Jefferson.”
He and Smith attended high school together and are known for collaborating and introducing smart initiatives. While it was a thought bubble they tossed around with the mayor, the energy upgrade project didn’t become a possibility until Lindenhurst took the lead.
“We were ready to put in solar panel cells until we saw what Johnson did locally,” Smith said after Lindenhurst’s commitment.
The village has already installed a charger for two electric cars in the Village Hall parking in 2019. “We committed to a clean-fleet policy,” Keyes said. “The bids for electric cars just came back and we’re going to look at installing more charging stations.” NSERDA, he said, helped with a grant.
The village would partner with the Johnson Controls team as the project progresses.
“We have a team of point people,” said Smith. “Senior building inspector Peter Sarich and DPW supervisor Joe Dean will work with their crew on our buildings; Village Hall, Patchogue Theatre, Department of Parks and Recreation [380 Bay Avenue] and Joe and I will make sure the right people are connected for the work they are doing.”
Johnson Controls International, with headquarters in Dublin, is a global company that specializes in building service and energy solutions. The company, Fitzsimmons said, dates back to 1885.
“We’ve done this for the last 20 years,” Fitzsimmons said, who works out of the Syosset office, of the energy audits and resulting upgrades. “We’ve been providing energy solutions for health care, school districts and local government. We started in Suffolk County.”
“Another plus,” said Smith, “is that we’re meeting with Johnson people we’re familiar with locally,” said Smith of Fitzsimmons, who lives in Sayville.