City of Fairfield: Energy project to save at least 10 percent annually

By LACEY JACOBS, Ledger staff writer | Mar 01, 2012

Solar tubes in the ceiling of the Fairfield City Hall council chambers are aglow on a sunny afternoon. The solar tubes are just one of several energy efficient upgrades made to eight city-owned buildings in the last year. An extensive project to improve energy efficiency at eight city-owned buildings is expected to pay for itself over the next 6.5 years.

Fairfield City Councilman Michael Halley reported Monday the $481,376 project that began in 2009 is now complete.

One-third of the project was funded by a federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant through the Iowa Office of Energy Independence. Another $45,000 to $50,000 in rebates from Alliant Energy is anticipated, putting the cost to Fairfield at $271,000 to $276,000, which will be recouped in energy savings.

Many of the upgrades were as simple as retrofitting lamps and installing programmable thermostats. At the Fairfield Public Library alone, 836 light bulbs were changed and nine occupancy sensors were installed.

“As soon as the new lights were installed in the public area of our building, readers remarked about the difference. Everyone who walked into the building stopped and looked around, because the contrast was really noticeable,” library director Rebecca Huggins said.

Another 327 bulbs were replaced at Roosevelt Community Recreation Center, 219 at public works, 132 at waterworks and 150 at city hall. Occupancy sensors also were installed at city hall (13), the fire department (16) and the rec center (12).

At city hall, 57 lamp and ballast fixtures were replaced. At the waterworks, 24 thermostats were replaced, and at the rec center, two ultra high efficient water heaters were installed. The list of work goes on.

“Even though most of this stuff wasn’t very interesting, it’s the same stuff people can do to their houses or their offices. It was very much off-the-shelf technology — just doing stuff that anyone can do,” Halley said.

A couple of the improvements were a little more unique, including the six solar tubes installed in city hall’s roof to provide natural lighting. Halley also highlighted a solar fan installed in the roof of a wastewater pumping station.

“They just get broiling hot in the summer and any time wastewater people have to go out there it’s just unbearable, so we found these solar-powered fans. They sit on top, and when the sun shines it ventilates,” he said.

Much of the work was completed by local companies: Live Wire Electric, Zehr Electric and Jagen Plumbing and Heating.

Work got under way in January 2011 with installation of a new furnace at the waterworks. New lighting at the library was the next priority, and progress on the project continued through the fall.

Some of the plans changed along the way. Due to stipulations on federal funding, solar heating and a cover for the indoor municipal pool had to be eliminated. Halley said solar heating for the rec center showers was then considered, but ultimately found to have a poor payback.
Finding improvements with the shortest payback period was one goal of the project, Halley said.

“I feel really good about this project just in terms of the fiscal side of it — really making the most efficient use of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Halley said Alliant Energy actually anticipates greater annual savings than the conservative 10 percent he used to calculate the payback period.

He also sees all of the work done thus far as just the first step — the next may be renewable energy projects, such as a large scale wind project: one of the objectives inFairfield’s go-green strategic plan.

“The city’s done its work and now we want to encourage citizens and businesses to follow suit,” Halley also said.

Alliant Energy’s Hometown Rewards Program works with cities to “enhance energy efficiency across the entire community,” he said. Sustainability coordinator Scott Timm will spearhead the program, kicking off in April.

Halley said a key aspect will be education, including informing consumers of the Alliant Energy rebates available to them. He also hopes to see an “energy audit blitz” that would provide free energy audits to half the town happen.

The end reward for meeting program goals is roughly $18,000 toward a renewable energy project, which Halley said with likely be photovoltaic panels on the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center or city hall.


Feb 23 2012 Trip to the Capitol

FEDA joined members of the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce for a trip to the state Capitol Building in Des Moines.

While in Des Moines, the group received briefings on economic development and education reform legislation and met with Senator Greiner, Representative Hanson, Representative Klein, the Speaker of the House, the Chair of the Economic Growth committee, and the Public Policy Advisor to the Director of the Department of Education.

The group finished their day with a historic tour of the Capitol building.

Feb 14 2012 Iowa Needs More People

Re-posted from the Des Moines Register blog written by Jason Noble.

One key to growing Iowa’s economy, state economic development director Debi Durham told lawmakers this afternoon, will be growing the state’s population.

Boosting educational investments that prepare young adults for industrial and advanced manufacturing jobs will be important too, she said, but Iowa must attract more people and reverse its current-slow growth trend.

“We literally have to grow our state population,” Durham said. “When you look at our slow growth, when you look at our aging population, when you have this baby-boom population that is eventually going to exit the workforce, we need people.”

Businesses are looking for an educated workforce to run advanced manufacturing operations that don’t necessarily require a college degree, but which do call for specialized training. Attracting people with such skills will be as necessary as training Iowa’s current residents, she said.

The state can play a role in such an effort, she said, by improving marketing that emphasizes Iowa’s quality of life, she said.

Marketing will be critical for drawing businesses, too. Iowa’s public-relations and marketing efforts should be so robust that any discussion of agriculture, food safety or advanced manufacturing turns to Iowa, Durham said.

“Whenever there’s a conversation going on about that – that there are jobs and they’re good jobs and they’re great jobs for tomorrow – we need to be inserted in that conversation,” she said.

Durham’s comments came during an informational presentation before the House Economic Growth committee that also touched on Department of Economic Development’s transition from state agency to public-private partnership and Gov. Terry Branstad’s new economic-development proposals.


Feb 07 2012 Economic Development and Historic Preservation

Main Street in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by Faye Gilbert.)


New Main Street Communities Announced

February 7, 2012 (Des Moines, IA) – Governor Terry Branstad today announced that three Iowa communities were selected to join the Main Street Iowa program: Chariton, Jefferson and Lansing.  The announcement was made during a special ceremony held at the Iowa State Capitol.


“Iowa’s historic main streets are the heart and soul of our communities,” said Governor Branstad.  “We will continue to do whatever we can to keep Iowa’s downtowns strong and vibrant for business owners, workers, residents and visitors.  I am pleased to welcome each of these communities into the Main Street family and wish them much success in the future.”


For more than 25 years, the Main Street Iowa program and its communities have been looked upon as the “best of the best” in a national effort to revitalize downtowns across the country.  The addition of these new communities brings the total number of Main Street communities in Iowa to 48.


“In their applications and presentations, the selected communities demonstrated strong partnerships, a high level of volunteerism, and a commitment to the revitalization of their downtown districts.  We are confident that these three cities will thrive and grow for many years to come,” said Debi Durham, Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority.


Becoming a designated Main Street Iowa community is no easy task. Community representatives must attend rigorous training sessions before even being eligible to apply.  They must demonstrate support from local organizations, businesses, and lawmakers; funding and in-kind support must be secured and documented; strategic plans outlining short- and long-term goals must be in place; and city resolutions and historic preservation ordinances must be passed and signed.  Most importantly, community officials, business owners, and volunteers must agree to work together with the common goals of preserving Iowa’s historic buildings and unique commercial business districts, and improving the local economy by adopting and following the Main Street Four Point Approach® to historic commercial district revitalization.


While it may be challenging to become a Main Street community, designated communities reap many benefits.  During the first three years of the program, each community receives 40 days of on-site training and technical assistance from Main Street Iowa, National Main Street Center staff and private consultants, as well as 30 days of training for volunteers and local staff, resulting in a state investment of $100,000.  Mature Main Street communities each receive continuing training valued at $10,000 annually.


Over the years, by working together with the state, Main Street Iowa communities have realized the benefits of more than two million hours of volunteer time committed to improving their city centers, a significantly increased job and business base, and over a billion dollars in private investment to purchase, construct and rehabilitate downtown property.


For more information, visit