County to implement energy-saving projects

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a development agreement with Energy Services Group of Wayzata to implement approximately $1.5 million in energy-saving projects in county buildings.

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WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a development agreement with Energy Services Group of Wayzata to implement approximately $1.5 million in energy-saving projects in county buildings.

The projects have the potential to save the county a minimum of $72,000 per year, according to ESG's Rob Brown, who spoke during the board meeting.

Brown said ESG has been in business for more than 20 years, working with counties, cities and school districts on green initiatives. In Nobles County, he said the company would work to reduce maintenance and increase efficiency at the Prairie Justice Center, Nobles County Government Center, Nobles County Library and the Public Works facility.

Among the ideas ESG will address are lighting, temperature controls, cracks and crevices, insulation and vending machines.

Brown told commissioners the projects would not require taxpayer funding. Instead, ESG would look to federal stimulus dollars, state grants and other resources to complete the work.


"The savings will begin as projects are completed," said Brown. "The savings will go back into the construction those first few years, but by year 10, we're looking at savings exceeding what we're spending."

"The name of the game is to save money," said Commissioner Diane Thier. "We wouldn't be looking at this if we couldn't save money."

Commissioner Vern Leistico questioned the need to include the library in the agreement, as the county is still in talks with Vetter-Johnson regarding potential changes to the library building.

"That project may be five years out or more," replied Commissioner Marv Zylstra. "The library is the one that we would note the most savings right away."

Nobles County Administrator Mel Ruppert said he received a letter from Johnson Controls citing concerns about not being considered for the energy-saving project. Johnson Controls has provided maintenance at the Prairie Justice Center since 2002.

In other action, the board:

- Appointed Thier and Commissioner David Benson to serve on a committee representing Nobles-Rock Community Health Services as the county looks at a potential collaboration with Lincoln-Lyon-Murray-Pipestone (LLMP) Public Health. LLMP, along with Lincoln-Lyon-Murray Human Services, are working to create a joint powers agreement that will restructure and combine the agencies.

Ruppert said the committee will discuss the viability of collaborating with LLMP. He said only public health is being considered at this time. Nobles County and Pipestone County have a joint powers agreement for human services.


- Reconsidered a vote that failed earlier in the meeting and approved a change in the county's IT department regarding e-mail encryption services.

Kelly Kruse, director of Information Technology for the county, requested an internal service be used to encrypt e-mail messages that contain sensitive information. The county's contract with another service provider expires at the end of this month.

The motion failed on the first attempt because Zylstra was opposed to paying the three-year contract in 2010, at a cost of approximately $15,000, rather than paying approximately $5,000 per year for the existing contract.

When Ruppert explained later in the meeting that the failed vote would result in no encryption service, thereby increasing the county's exposure, Zylstra moved to reconsider the vote.

"I still have my concerns in regard to the budget," Zylstra said. "We've got this huge cloud out there, and we don't know where we're at."

With Benson and Gene Foth both absent from Tuesday's meeting, votes needed a 3-0 vote for majority passage.

- Accepted a $5,300 federal boating safety grant for the sheriff's department. The grant will be used to purchase marker buoys and a depth finder that includes GPS and grid mapping.

- Approved a request from enXco for a driveway in the northeast quarter of Section 23, Summit Lake Township, for access to the electrical substation and operations and maintenance facility.


- Approved a contract between Nobles County Family Services and Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., for services provided to patients in need of hospitalization for involuntary psychiatric treatment.

- Appointed commissioners Zylstra and Foth to serve on the county budget committee.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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