Mahoning County immediately should switch its courthouse, administration and jail buildings from natural gas to steam heat to save about $20,100 annually, an engineering consultant said.
The commissioners heard the recommendation from Chris J. Morrone III, an engineer with CJL Engineering of Youngstown, the consulting firm commissioners hired to perform the energy study of the three buildings.
Morrone urged commissioners to discontinue using the natural-gas- fired boilers in those buildings and return to using steam from Youngstown Thermal, which had been used to heat those buildings before 2006.
The steam would be supplied by boilers that burn wood waste and coal at Youngstown Thermal’s North Avenue plant, which heats most of Youngstown State University and many buildings in and near downtown.
Even with today’s low natural-gas prices, Morrone told the commissioners during a Thursday staff meeting they could save $7,000 at the courthouse, $7,700 at the county administration building and $5,400 annually at the jail by making the switch.
Carl E. Avers, chairman of Youngstown Thermal, said his company is prepared to enter into contract with the county for three years at a constant rate of $14.50 per thousand pounds of steam.
John A. McNally IV, chairman of the county commissioners, said commissioners will await a report from another consultant, Palmer Energy of Toledo, before they decide. Palmer negotiates for counties on energy procurement.
In their board meeting earlier Thursday, commissioners heard Butch Taylor, business manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 396, say oil and gas drilling and related industries offer many local job opportunities for those trained in the construction trades.
“Our membership has increased by 15 percent because of this work,” he said of his local, which has about 460 active members.
“What’s exciting is that the first processing plant in Columbiana County is going to get started,” with construction beginning this fall, he said.
Taylor was referring to the Millennium natural gas processing plant near Hanoverton.
Taylor’s local offers a five-year apprenticeship program, where he said participants earn a living while learning on the job, and their only out-of-pocket costs are for books. Apprenticeship applicants may call Marty Loney, Local 396’s apprenticeship coordinator, at 330-758-4596.
Taylor said his union and the ironworkers’ union will benefit greatly from the Millennium construction project.
“These are long-term jobs. These are jobs that pay very well with benefits,” he told the commissioners. “The future looks very bright for us,” he added.
Commissioner Anthony T. Traficanti said, “It’s going to be one of the largest things this area has ever seen since the steel industry, so we have to prepare for it. We have to get training programs in place. These jobs pay very, very well.”