Youngstown council committee postpones vote on switching heat vendors


By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The city administration wants to hire a Middleburg Heights company to provide heat for five of its downtown buildings, but a city council committee put the brakes on until its members hear from the existing vendor.

Council’s buildings and grounds committee voted Thursday to let Youngstown Thermal make a pitch before making the decision.

Brewer-Garrett Co. made a presentation for the city to pay them $1,839,700 for the work guaranteeing that the municipality would save at least $3,234,180 over 15 years, excluding the initial expense.

After that cost is included, the city would save $1,294,480 under the proposal, said James Wilbanks, the company’s senior energy engineer.

The administration wanted council to vote on the proposal at its Wednesday meeting.

But Carl Avers, Youngstown Thermal’s chief executive officer, addressed the committee and asked that his company, which provides steam heat for the buildings, be given a chance to offer its own proposal. The committee agreed and scheduled a meeting for Nov. 3 to let Avers make his pitch.

The five buildings are city hall and the attached police department as well as the Covelli Centre, 20 Federal Place office building and the downtown fire station.

Councilman Julius T. Oliver, D-1st, buildings and grounds chairman, said the committee will have a recommendation to council Nov. 3 after Youngstown Thermal gives its proposal.

“We need a little bit more information,” he said.

As for Brewer-Garrett’s proposal, Oliver said, “It seems like a great offer. It’s a good recommendation. We want to make sure we’re doing what we need to do as council.”

Councilman Nate Pinkard, D-3rd, the committee’s vice chairman, said, “ The administration very well could be correct with this, but we want to find out.”

City Finance Director David Bozanich said council empowered the administration to find the best company for the work and to negotiate a deal, which is what it did.

“We think it’s in the best interests of the city to go forward with this process” and hire Brewer-Garrett, he said.

The city received proposals Aug. 6, 2015, from the two companies for the work.

The city had decided to re-evaluate its contract with Youngstown Thermal for heating after Youngstown State University, the company’s largest client, voted to end its contract with the firm. That deal expired in June.

The city opted to negotiate with Brewer-Garrett because it preferred its experience and expertise, said Charles Shasho, deputy director of the city’s public-works department.

The company could have the work done in six to eight months, Wilbanks said.

The plan would be to build an on-site steam boiler for city hall and the police department, convert the fire station from steam to electric, make 20 Federal Place all electric and make modifications so the Covelli Centre could become more energy-efficient, Wilbanks said.

The savings is guaranteed, and if it isn’t realized, Brewer-Garrett would make up the difference, he said.

However, Avers questioned how there could be a savings when electricity is more expensive than steam, which his company uses for heating. He also questioned the guarantee.

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