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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

LaCrosse County debates LEED’s green merits

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

La Crosse County will pay for a greenish jail, but the price tag for LEED honors might be too steep.

“I’m willing to spend money for energy conservation,” said County Supervisor John Medinger.

“But I’m not sure what we get for LEED certification at about $200,000.

“If it’s just a plaque that says, ‘Nice job, now give us $200,000,’ I’m going to lean against it.”

The La Crosse County Board last week approved a $29.5 million expansion for the county jail in La Crosse, but members delayed a vote on seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification or adding green features that were not in the original bid package.


County Administrator Steve O’Malley said the board has until the second week in December to decide on certification, which he said would cost $166,000, or an alternate package of green features, such as a solar hot water system, a retention pond and a heat-reclaiming system.

“From what I can tell, the board is really on the fence about it right now,” O’Malley said. “Some green features are already built into the project, but I think they’ll go for additional energy-saving features if they can see the payback.”

The county estimated the alternate package of green elements would add $500,000 to $600,000 to the project cost. Medinger said some projects related to the jail expansion, including a probation center, could be delayed to free up the money.

County officials owe it to their constituents to find a way to achieve the greenest possible jail, said County Supervisor Maureen Freedland, who chairs the La Crosse County Law Enforcement Center Construction Committee.

“We’re looking for more than just efficiency,” she said. “It’s the societal factor, what it means to the area, and what we’re saying to the community.”

Freedland said LEED certification is an important part of that package.

“There are people on the committee that think it’s just a plaque or a piece of paper,” she said. “But that money gets you site visits to make sure programs and features are set up and running properly.”

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