Jail, Gifford Center could get energy upgrades through stimulus dollars

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The Indian River County Jail, Gifford Community Center and select traffic signals could all get energy upgrades if the county wins a nearly $500,000 grant for federal stimulus dollars.

The Board of County Commissioners unanimously supported a grant application that would pay for a solar hot water heating system at the jail, improve lighting and the heating and air conditioning at the community center, and swap out incandescent traffic signals in Gifford for LED signals.

The three projects would not require the county to match the grant and are considered more wants than needs, according to Community Development Director Bob Keating.

Keating told commissioners last week that these were projects the county wanted to take on but couldn’t easily justify the costs associated.

“It didn’t have the pay back,” he said of the solar heater for the jail, adding that it will pay the county back with the grant.

In all, the county is applying for a little more than $491,000.

As part of the grant application, the county demonstrated that it is investing in other energy efficiencies within the Gifford community and Vero Beach/Indian River County Enterprise Zone, which increases its odds of having the grant awarded.

Those projects, using $507,000 of budgeted county funds, include:

Lighting upgrades at the jail, Emergency Operations Center and Traffic Operations and garage;

Occupancy sensors at the same locations;

Upgrading the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the Road and Bridge Complex.

The State of Florida has reserved $12.4 million for local governments, of which Indian River County qualifies. As such, the county could apply for up to $1.24 million.

Keating told commissioners that the county could have applied for the full amount but he felt it could hurt their chances in receiving the funds. Grant funds that would be used within Front Porch Communities – like Gifford – and enterprise zones get higher priority for funding.

The county isn’t the only local government seeking creative funding options for energy related projects.

Last week, the Sebastian City Council sent an application seeking $200,000 for wind turbines at the municipal airport. The wind turbines would generate electricity that would be supplied to Florida Power and Light for an energy credit on the airport’s electric bill.

The City of Fellsmere, too, has applied for a grant that would cover the cost of solar-powered street lights on Broadway Avenue.

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