Homewood took a step toward going greener at Tuesday night's village board meeting.
The Homewood Village Board agreed to give consensus to the Public Works Department to pursue negotiations for a replacement of the Public Safety building's current HVAC system with a geothermal system.
Geothermal HVAC systems work by using the natural temperature of the ground for heating and air conditioning as opposed to creating it with machines that rely partly on natural gas to operate.
The current Public Safety HVAC system is part of the original building, built in 1967.
"It is an aging system," Director of Public Works John Schaefer said. "We just lost a compressor ... if the second fails, there will be no air conditioning in the police department."
The decision to pursue a geothermal system instead of a rooftop HVAC unit came after a recommendation from Schaefer. According to Schaefer, the geothermal system is far more environmentally friendly than the other option, it would be easier to install than a rooftop unit and it would require significantly less maintenance than an alternative system.
The geothermal system would, however, be more costly—at least up front. But the investment pays off long-term, according to Schaefer. He turned the stage over to representatives of St. Louis-based company Control Technology and Solutions (CTS), the potential contractor for the new system.
A spokeswoman from CTS said that, while the initial cost is higher, it would even out in savings 10 years from now. Beyond that, the spokeswoman said CTS estimates a savings of $600,000 by the 30-year benchmark, compared to the existing system. Additionally, a $90,000 grant already has been secured from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. Another $30,000+ grant is currently being pursued from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
"I think the concept of geothermal is terribly exciting," Trustee Jay Heiferman said.
But Trustee Ray Robertson wasn't so excited. That's because, according to Director of Finance Dennis Bubenik, there exists a $100,000 shortfall in funds for the geothermal system. Robertson said issuing another bond was out of the question.
"I like the idea of geothermal, but, realistically, we can't afford that," Robertson said. "I think we're throwing the downtown plan out the window."
While the other trustees agreed with Robertson's unwillingness to issue another bond to cover the $100k shortfall, all board members besides Tom Kataras, who was absent, gave consensus in support of the geothermal system. Trustee Anne Colton cited the long-term implications of the decision as justification to spend more money up front.
"This is a long-term issue and I don't think you apply short-term thinking to long-term issues," Colton said. "If you look at a 10-12-year horizon, it's going to pay for itself."
Because the board voted only to give consensus, the project will be refined, financial issues will be sorted out and a contract will be presented for the trustees to vote on.