Battle Creek YMCA making energy efficient and cost savings improvements

By: Trace Christenson

Battle Creek’s Y-Center is spending $1.8 million on improvements and most no one will see.

Board Treasurer Donnie Speck and YMCA CEO Jill Hind in the pool area where new energy savings lights have been installed. (Photo: Trace Christenson/The Enquirer)

Work began weeks ago to replace the boilers, lights, heating and cooling systems and swimming pool operating systems which were installed at least four decades ago.

“Our board has decided to be more energy efficient and sustainable if we are going to keep our doors open for another 50 years,” Hind said. “We have a crumbling infrastructure that was installed in the late 1970s and all of our mechanical and operating systems were antiquated.”

The YMCA, with 157 employees, has nearly 7,000 members and each day 600 people use the facility at 182 Capital Ave. N.E., built in the 1950s.

But Hind said the structure is sound but the old mechanics are inefficient and the 13-member board must spend nearly $400,000 a year from their $2.5 million budget to pay for electricity and natural gas to operate programs from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. nearly every day of the year.

“With our energy costs we are staggeringly inefficient right now,” Hind said. “It is expensive to operate this building – $30,000 a month.”

Repairs also have been eating into the budget.

Joe Wright, maintenance supervisor at the YMCA with a control panel from the 1970s. (Photo: Trace Christenson/The Enquirer)

Joe Wright, maintenance supervisor, said he often had to babysit the boilers and has searched military surplus sites and e-Bay for parts for the control panel to operate the cooling and heating systems.

“I once took a picture of a smaller version of this control panel I found in an antique store,” Wright said.

“We could probably sell some of this for props for a 1960s movie is a studio were to come in,” Hind said.

The improvements will cut operating expenses in half although the board will continue to pay nearly as much because the YMCA is taking a $1.3 million Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy loan to finance the work and borrowing another $600,000 from a local bank.

The project is coordinated by Lean and Green Michigan, a Detroit-based company that helps commercial, industrial, multifamily and nonprofit properties finance energy efficient and renewable energy projects.

Petros PACE Finance in Austin, Texas, makes the loans to commercial property owners for energy retrofits.

The loans will be repaid with energy cost savings from the more efficient systems, said Donnie Speck, the board treasurer.

“We will be rewarded for doing this with the savings,” he said.

He and Hind said the financial company evaluated the building and estimated the savings from the more energy efficient renovations. The board began studying the project in 2016.

Mike Williams of Hunter-Prell Co. of Battle Creek is installing new boilers at the Battle Creek YMCA. (Photo: Trace Christenson/The Enquirer)

“Over the 22-year-life of the loan energy efficient features will generate $3,233,342 in savings,” according to a statement from Mansoor Ghori, Petros PACE Finance CEO.

“Many nonprofits have high utility costs, but are too capital-constrained to justify the upfront expenses associated with energy-saving upgrades,” he said. “C-Pace makes it feasible for them to make those upgrades without diverting funds from their core mission because the saving generated will outpace the annual payments from the very beginning.”

“It will pay for itself,” Hind said. “Instead of paying energy costs we will repay the loan.”

The Battle Creek Y program is the eighth of its kind in Michigan since 2016, the company said.

Hind said the biggest savings will come from lighting after installing LED bulbs throughout the building and in the parking lot and the brighter lights will be the most visible improvement for people using the 177,000 square foot building.

The new systems should improve the heating and cooling and humidity in the building.

“It will impact member comfort,” Hind said.

Originally published on Battle Creek Enquirer