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Oak Creek city hall, library may go geothermal

System would cost the city $350,000 to put in place

April 19, 2013

Oak Creek - The proposed new city hall and library may be heated with a geothermal system if the Common Council allows the city to go $350,000 over budget.

The new city hall and library plans came in $3.5 million over budget and feature many amenities. While cutting some aspects, including underground parking, has brought the budget down by $2.5 million, the council is seriously considering keeping a geothermal energy system in the proposal.

If aldermen approve the system at the May 7 Common Council meeting, they would pay for the system either with proceeds from Drexel Town Square developer Wispark or by borrowing against the money they would save with the new system.

The reason for the council's consideration, and City Administrator Gerald Peterson's support, of adding geothermal to the new site is simple: Engineers say it will save the city money in the long run.

Contractor Sustainable Engineering Group projects that the city will recover its costs completely in 11 years. The group projects the savings to come mainly from the city's energy bill.

A geothermal system would use 30 percent less energy than a conventional system, Sustainable Engineering Group Principle Manus McDevitt said.The maintenance costs would be cut by 15 percent due to the system's lack of a blower or boiler.

The system's lack of need for a boiler or blower would also save between 1,000 and 2,000 square feet of space, as there would be no need for a special room to house the equipment.

A geothermal system uses the Earth as a radiator to regulate heat.

Oak Creek's city hall and library would have 60 400-foot holes drilled under it, McDevitt said. Pipes would be put into the holes to pump liquid down through the soil and back up to the building. Roughly 75 percent of the energy required to heat the building would come from the difference in temperature between the Earth and the air. Lake Michigan helps in that it regulates neighboring soil temperature well.

The rest of the temperature control comes from a compressor and fan system.

Next Step

WHAT: Common Council vote on geothermal system

WHEN: 7 p.m. May 7

WHERE: Oak Creek City Hall

COST: $350,000

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