Rebuild Strikes Gold in Nebraska City and Hastings

Nebraska City- In the past several months, the two-year Rebuild Otoe County effort has moved from concept to hard work to concrete results.

The Nebraska Energy Office's proposal for Rebuild Otoe County  was awarded $100,000 in funding by the U.S. Department of Energy. This localized undertaking in Nebraska City aims to show owners of historically significant commercial and multi-family buildings ways to make these homes and businesses more energy efficient without destroying the architectural integrity of the vintage buildings.

Saving A Piece of History

By the end of March, the local Rebuild Otoe County  coordinator, Amy Reese, had recruited four partners who owned five buildings. Three of these buildings are on the Historic Register or eligible for inclusion on the Register. These buildings date from the 1860s to the 1890s. Energy Office staff performed energy assessments of the buildings and provided the owners with suggested options along with methods of financing the improvements.

Rebuild Otoe County  is not the first historical preservation project in the state the Energy Office has aided. In the 1980s, more than $625,000 in oil overcharge funds leveraged local funds to make energy efficiency improvements in five historically significant courthouses in Antelope, Gosper, Hamilton, Kimball and Pawnee Counties. The projects ranged from replacing windows to adding insulation to replacing heating and cooling systems and boilers.

For more information about Rebuild Otoe County, contact Amy Reese at River Country Economic Development Corporation at 402-873-4293 in Nebraska City.
HASTINGS W hen you have nearly 1,350 lights in a multi-purpose commercial building, it is commonplace to get a four-figure electric bill every month.

That is just one of the reasons Bob Finnigsmier of Hastings' Landmark Center decided to look at ways to save on electricity use. Another reason was a firm that specialized in customized energy efficient lights offered to evaluate the Center's lighting to find ways in which the owners could save both energy and dollars.

The Landmark Center is 44 year-old building in Hastings. Originally the building housed the J.M. McDonald Co. warehouse and department store. Today, the Hastings Hall of History and Aspen Art Gallery occupy part of the space of the former department store.

After the review, the company recommended replacing more than 700 fixtures, ballasts and almost 1,350 fluorescent lamps of various sizes. "After we saw the report, we asked the company to verify all the costs and projected savings," Finnigsmier said. "Even then, we still wanted a second opinion. It's hard to imagine that simply changing lighting systems can save that much money or cost that much to replace." Finnigsmier said the lighting company suggested contacting the Energy Office for both verification of the recommendations and accessing low-interest financing. According to Finnigsmier, the lighting company analysis suggested dollar savings could easily total more than $12,000 in a year. However, to change all the lighting systems recommended would cost more than $45,000.
The lighting report also suggested making the improvements would have positive environmental benefits. Based on an annual reduction of more than 250,000 kilowatthours of electricity used, the projected savings for just one year totaled:

A kilowatthour is a common measurement of electricity use and means one kilowatt of electricity supplied for one hour. Typical households without an electric water heater consume about 500 kilowatt-hours in an average month.

Partners Get More

Lynn Chamberlin in the Energy Office reviewed the lighting report on the Landmark Center and found the energy and dollar saving projections to be on target. "When I went over the report with Landmark's owners," Chamberlin said, "I suggested the firm become a Rebuild Nebraska partner to enable them access to a low interest loan to finance the lighting improvements." Chamberlin is the primary Rebuild contact in Nebraska.

For Finnigsmier, the deciding factor to proceed with the improvements was the cash flow analysis in the lighting report. "The projected monthly dollar savings was far greater than the monthly loan payment," Finnigsmier said. "We could get new lighting systems, finance the purchase price with a 6 percent loan and still be able to pocket about $100 a month." The report showed the cost of some of the new lights could be recovered in less than two years. However, all the fluorescent fixtures would start paying for themselves after three and a half years.

The new lighting systems were installed in 1997. Since then, Finnigsmier has been keeping close tabs on his electric bills. His records show the Landmark's electric bills have averaged almost $750 a month less since the lighting improvements were made. The savings more than cover the loan payment. "Since we didn't make all the changes recommended by the lighting company," Finnigsmier said, "our average savings are a little lower than projected. But, we are still dollars ahead."

Finnigsmier recommended that other businesses with high energy costs, consider contacting their local utility or the state's Energy Office to find ways to reduce energy use. "It's just plain foolish not to," Finnigsmier said. "Who wants to spend more than what is needed to run a business?"

Return to the Spring 1999 Newsletter