Wauwatosa makes energy committee permanent

Group tasked with finding inefficiencies in city's buildings

Jan. 15, 2014

The Energy and Recycling Committee now has a permanent role in Wauwatosa, and its members intend on saving the city energy and money.

Originally the energy ad hoc committee, the group has had a temporary status for the past four years. On Jan. 7, however, the Common Council merged the group with the Recycling Committee, which had been suffering from relative dormancy, noted Jay Kasmerchak, the newly formed group's chairman.

The pressing goal of the seven-member board is to go through each publicly owned building and find inefficiencies, he said. Anything from changing light bulbs to replacing inefficient heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems could be recommended. In the future, the group may hold public education seminars, seek out alternative fuel and energy choices and apply for grants and rebates for energy use.

The committee comprises Wauwatosans with expertise in the energy and recycling fields and its council liaison is Alderman Jeff Roznowski. Meetings are held the first Wednesday of every month.

What's been done

The committee already has laid some ground work in Wauwatosa. Members have combed through the parks department building in Hart Park, regulating the thermostat and recommending a boiler replacement.

Kasmerchak said the boiler is past its useful life and replacing it could save the city headaches down the road.

"You can get away with not having an air conditioner working, but if you don't have a boiler working, you have an emergency," he said.

The lion's share of the committee's 2014 work will be as simple as that: send a member out to inspect a building and report energy inefficiencies.

While the committee doesn't have a date for a public education seminar set yet, committee member John Bahr has held numerous public seminars on his own through the Bag It program, an effort to stop Tosans from using plastic bags. He's spoken at churches, local clubs and neighborhood association meetings.

He's also shown the documentary "Bag It" many times, given away copies of the movie and plans an April 5 showing of it at the Rosebud. The public education forums may let residents know about upcoming changes to how the city manages recycling and energy or how they can manage their personal energy consumption.

"Education is a very important part of it," Bahr said. "Unless people understand the problems, they're not motivated to do anything about it. So we help them understand."

Looking forward

The group, Kasmerchak said, will need to look at what will work budget-wise for the city in the future. Tosans may not see many solar panels or wind turbines in the near future, but they will see alternative energy vehicles enter the city's fleet.

The city has purchased two alternative-energy vehicles for its buildings inspection division. Scheduled to replace three vehicles with Ford Focuses, the city instead used money from an internal granting source to pay the difference for a gas/electric hybrid Ford Fusion and an all-electric Ford Escape.

William Porter, director of public works, will do a cost analysis between the two alternative-energy vehicles and the third purchase, a gas-powered Ford Focus.

"It's going to be interesting to see how this shakes out," he said. "These are normally vehicles that putter around town and go into the garage all night, which is ideal from an electric perspective."

While mainly the brainchild of City Attorney Alan Kesner and Fleet Superintendent Kevin Hurst, the program is a example of what Energy and Recycling Committee recommendations may look like.

Throughout 2014, the Energy and Recycling Committee will be analyzing and mapping the city's carbon emissions using data from electric bills. By 2015, Kasmerchak hopes, Wauwatosa should have a map of what areas of the city are using the most power, when they're using the most power and what their carbon emissions are.

As for solar panels and wind turbines, he said, there isn't enough open space to consider photovoltaic solar panels and the committee hadn't considered turbines yet.

"Green energy is something we certainly look at, but we have to balance the cost of that with the benefit," he added.


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