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Things should cool off soon at Police Department

May 4, 2010

Wauwatosa officials have decided to spend $190,000 in federal economic stimulus funds to install a more energy-efficient air conditioning system at the Police Department.

One of the department's four air conditioners broke down in late April after 30 years in operation, leaving staff scrambling to find a replacement option. This unit covers an older portion of the station where the locker rooms, firing range and prisoner cells are located.

Last week, city staff provided three possible fixes: spending $45,000 to replace parts to get the existing unit running again; paying $75,000 to buy a new unit; or making improvements to the department's entire cooling and ventilation system for a cost of $190,000.

The first option is not ideal because it relies on coolant that is being phased out and parts that are being discontinued, Chief Building Official Dave Wheaton said. The second option is viable, but would require dipping into budget contingency funds.

The third option - improving the system - uses only economic stimulus dollars rather than city tax dollars, and payback could begin immediately upon installation, said Alderman Dennis McBride, explaining why he voted in favor as a member of the Budget and Finance Committee on Tuesday.

The federal dollars were allocated to the city to for the purpose of energy conservation and job creation. Wheaton said the project meets these qualifications.

"The mechanical industry is at an all-time low, so they are looking for work," he said.

The difference in cost between a new unit and new systems should be made up in about seven years in lower energy costs, City Administrator James Archambo said.

The city actually received $220,000 in economic stimulus funds, but $30,000 is already being spent on a study of how City Hall could be made more energy efficient.

Putting solar panels and green roofs of the Public Works building have been floated by city officials, but no other recommendations for the $190,000 are on the table at this point.

Archambo said city staff is confident that the air conditioning system is the best option for the funds.

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