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Will Toledo energy efficiency plan be worth the money?

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 8:59 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The Toledo City Council is weighing the cost of making some of the city’s buildings more energy efficient. Some council members want more details before they okay the $46 million proposal currently on their agenda.

The city selected a company called Leopardo to bring energy savings to places like the Toledo Municipal Court. While many in the city would likely agree that other proposed locations, like the Frederick Douglass Community Center, need energy improvements and modernization, the question now is whether the $46 million price tag -- money the city will have to borrow -- is the best way to go about making those upgrades.

“We need to be smart in our approach. So that we’re not hamstringing future generations economically and that we’re not hindering the city’s ability to invest in capital projects and construction in the future,” says Toledo City Councilwoman Katie Moline.

Councilwoman Moline has spoken up several times about the Leopardo project, which would provide green energy changes for seven buildings and fuel savings. The biggest proposed cost savings is something called “avoided capital costs” to the tune of $77 million. But what exactly are avoided capital cost savings?

“I need to know what that means,” says Moline. “We can see clearly there are energy savings in lights and savings in building maintenance. What’s an avoided capital cost and how is that savings measured.”

“There’s a lot of different ways to look at numbers and I, to some extent, just shrug my shoulders and just try to approach things from the lens of common sense,” says Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz. “The folks whose job it is to maintain these buildings have told us that passing this ordinance will save money.”

That’s why Mayor Kapszukiewicz says he supports the plan to make an investment now to avoid potentially more expensive fixes down the line. Even as people question the $46 million investment of borrowed money to save what Leopardo says will be $88 million.

“Companies are gonna obviously make arguments, put their best face forward and that’s fine but to me their…. the numbers they’re throwing around are.... I’m indifferent to them,” says said Kapszukiewicz. “They’re not a central part of my thinking at all.”

“We do need to make these investments but we need to make sure what we’re being sold is accurate, that it’s transparent, that we’re accountable for these dollars,” says Moline.

City Council almost voted on these dollars last week but the legislation was left in a committee for further discussion. The mayor said Tuesday they do believe, as they read the guidelines, that the federal dollars coming from the Jobs Act cannot be used for this project.

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