Forgive me for the title. I do love a pun but when it’s particularly apt, well, I just can’t resist.
This post is about some of the work being done by the Town of Chapel Hill to cut costs during this difficult budget time. But, as explained by Energy Management Specialist Brian Callaway, it’s cost-cutting in a way most of us won’t necessarily notice.
Aside from the budgetary benefit, which I’ll outline in a moment, you may have already experienced the first large scale change in our public facilities if you park in the Wallace Deck. The lights there are always on and in May of last year, the town switched the stairwell bulbs to LED’s, which use less energy but also give off a crisp, white light. While the LED bulbs cost more to buy, they last longer so replacement cost is down, as is the maintenance cost because they need to be replaced less often. Callaway says the town is on track to be paid back for this investment within seven years thanks to that savings. And, if we do notice the difference, it will be the better quality of light.
Not all of his work is that glamorous because some of what Callaway does is review the energy bills for the town’s various facilities and optimize the available rate structures to suit the facilities’ needs. This is more necessary now than ever before not only because of budgetary constraints but because the price of energy is rising and the town’s consumption has been increasing also. Those are two arrows pointing in the wrong direction and if Callaway can’t change their direction, perhaps he can slow their rate or even nudge their trajectory a bit.
Where else can we expect sustainable, energy-efficient change? Certainly, we’ll see more switching of outdoor lighting around town facilities and inside some as well, including the Aquatics Center. The town is also investigating the feasibility of battery-operated electric buses. I got instantly excited at the prospect of buses practically gliding along our streets but Callaway brought me back to reality reminding me that switching the town’s bus fleet wouldn’t just be expensive in the initial equipment cost. The town’s transit infrastructure would have to change to provide upkeep and maintenance of vastly different vehicles.
There’s another project being studied that might have just the right kind of trickle down effect (apologies to all economists everywhere): the town is trying to find a way to support solar investment for residents. Stay tuned for details on that.
Do you know any bright lights working on ideas for our future? I’d like to know about them so please share below or write to me at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com. Also, leave a comment with any energy-saving ideas large or small.
This column was always supposed to be about how and where we spend our money. Many times I’ve expanded my definition to talk about how public money is spent and the choices made by people paid with public money. This edition of $avvy $pender, though, is back to the more personal kind of spending, in this case, my own.
This past weekend I was all set up to pack my son’s things to take to a summer program. I had the staging area set complete with suitcase, the packing list, the permanent marker and clothes and sunscreen and towels strewn about. The Leffler Command Center was up and running!
Smoothly efficient, I was, and not a little smug with my planning.
That ended as I got to the bottom of the list where I had glossed over things like towels and sheets knowing we had some to send. Glaring at me was the following: “a light blanket”.
I didn’t particularly want to take one from his bed to send, and anyway, those aren’t exactly light and thin for packing. Okay, I thought, it’s Saturday afternoon, we can run out and get a light cotton blanket.
No problem, right? Right, unless I want to shop in the town where I live. No problem unless I want my sales tax to go to the coffers of the town where I live.
Now I’m sure many of you will send me the name of an amazingly lovely store (or two) that sells gorgeous blankets. I’m sure it/they do/does but think about where this blanket is headed: to accompany a 10-year old boy to join several other 10-year old boys. That’s not the place to send an elegant coverlet.
Nor did I want logo’d fleece. Not because of the logo but because fleece is frequently polyester and polyester doesn’t breathe and it’s for a summer program in the South.
So, I don’t want to run to one of Chapel Hill’s chic boutiques and I don’t want to run to a UNC booster/souvenir store. I also don’t have time to make several stops just in case I find one. Where do I go? Sadly, fellow taxpayers, I went to Durham. And so did my money.
What is so wrong with having enough of a range of retail establishments in our town that we don’t have to (a.) use more gas while (b.) adding to the income of another city and county?
There’s clearly something wrong with it that I don’t understand. And while I don’t understand it, I probably will end up paying higher taxes. And while I don’t understand it, town services may decline. Someone, please explain to me why it seems sustainability applies only to Chapel Hill’s beautiful natural world and not also to keeping the town a vibrant and dynamic place.
Next summer, when I’ve forgotten something on that list (and I will, because I’m aging!), please let there be some leadership in this town that allows for a mixed environment that serves the interests and needs of all its residents.
I’m not the first to tell the story of running to Durham to spend money. The exciting food scene there is also a draw to many of my friends. Please leave a comment below or write to me at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com to tell me how you think town leaders should do the impossible: attempt to please everyone!http://chapelboro.com/columns/savvy-spender/necessary-border-crossing