Saturday, October 30, 2010

City shares new resource conservation manager with Auburn

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Deke Jones

Resource Conservation Manager 

Linda Farmer, APR
Communications & Gov. Affairs Mgr.
253.835.2411 or 253.261.1211

City shares new resource conservation manager with Auburn

A combination of grants is helping the cities of Federal Way and Auburn share a full-time Resource Conservation Manager. Deke Jones started work for both cities this month to help identify and implement energy cost savings for their municipally owned facilities, and to promote conservation habits among the cities’ employees.

Jones, a Burien resident, has more than a decade of experience in environmental education, facilities management and commercial real estate.

Funding for the position comes from the Washington State Department of Commerce and Puget Sound Energy, along with program support from Washington State University’s Energy Program. The position has a two-year funding commitment and is the first of its kind for both cities.

In Federal Way, Jones will look at cost savings for City facilities such as City Hall, the Federal Way Community Center and Dumas Bay Centre/Knutzen Theatre. He’ll also look at street lighting and investigate green opportunities such as electric car charging stations. In Auburn, he’ll examine City Hall, City Hall Annex, Auburn Senior Center, Parks and Recreation Administration Building, and the City Operations and Maintenance complex along with other city-operated facilities.

Funding for Jones’ position comes with a caveat. He must help the cities realize a 10-15 percent energy cost savings by the end of his term. Jones believes that number is achievable. It will take both technology upgrades and a new culture of conservation on the part of the cities’ employees and visitors to their public facilities.

First on the list is the low-hanging fruit, Jones said. “There are many low-cost/no-cost initiatives we can do right away to save energy.” For example, Jones said, he’ll look at operation schedules for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting systems. He’ll monitor the demand spikes and then adjust the schedules accordingly.

“Through the grant program, sophisticated software is available to us that tracks site-specific energy usage and billings, and allows us to adjust our energy use immediately to maximize operating efficiencies and reduce costs,” he said. “We’ll also capitalize on energy rebates and “green” initiatives that will allow us to operate more efficiently,” he added.

Even something as simple as a lighting audit — tracking when lights are turned on and off at various facilities — could result in significant savings, Jones said, but they’re not likely to come overnight.

“Making sure we turn off the lights and the water when we’re not using them are easy fixes, and the cheapest, most effective way to conserve. But that involves changing our attitudes and our behavior, and that happens gradually over time,” he explained.

“Once we’ve looked at how we can save energy with little or no cash outlay, and people are beginning to change their usage and habits, then we’ll turn to some of the conservation activities that involve heavier capital investments and large-scale changes,” Jones said. “I’m passionate about this kind of work, and it’s exciting that WSU, PSE and the State are supporting the project.

“Twenty-five years ago, you didn’t have this kind of position at a city — I would have been called a tree-hugger, something kind of extreme,” he observed. “But now it’s just a practical reality of good business and carefully managing the bottom line. And it’s not only for financial reasons — it’s socially and environmentally relevant, too.”

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