Energy company says it can save city millions

By Kalea Hall

khall@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Some familiar faces are pitching city hall on how to be more energy-efficient – and save enough to cover an anticipated budget shortfall.

Energy Management Services LLC told city officials in an email Wednesday it potentially could save the city $2.5 million.

The city has a projected $2.5 million to $3 million shortfall in the budget it has to complete by March 31.

If that company name isn’t familiar, the officials behind it are.

Jennifer Stofko, energy engineer for Energy Management Services, formerly worked as a chemical engineer for Youngstown Thermal.

Carl Avers, who ran the utility Youngstown Thermal until it was taken over last year by a court-appointed receiver because of its financial straits, is a consultant for Energy Management Services.

Stofko sent a letter to the city’s finance department, the mayor and city council members.

“We would like to set a meeting with you to review the details of how we can implement changes in your purchasing and use of energy that will generate those savings,” Stofko wrote.

Stofko could not be reached to comment Thursday, but Avers explained Energy Management Services is an energy-efficiency company.

“It’s making the buildings more energy-efficient,” he said. “We go through a building and basically reprogram it.”

Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said the Energy Management Services offer will be taken to city council’s Public Utilities Committee for discussion.

Council members want any offers to the city like this to be thoroughly reviewed.

“Companies are going to come out of the woodwork now to sell us a solution,” said Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th. “All those companies need to be vetted extremely well and taken with a grain of salt.”

Energy Management Services doesn’t actually supply heating and cooling, as Youngstown Thermal does.

Avers explained the company encourages the use of LED lighting and teaches building owners how to better manage energy. The company primarily works in Cleveland and Detroit.

“We install more-efficient motors, more-efficient fans and chillers, and where they are not on a district steam system, we put in more-efficient boilers,” Avers said.

Avers was the CEO of Youngs-town Thermal, a district energy company in downtown Youngstown that uses steam to provide heating and cooling to about 40 downtown customers.

Last year, the company was in such financial straits the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio had to have the court appoint a receiver to take over the company to avoid an energy crisis for Youngstown Thermal’s customers, including the city.

In December, city council authorized the board of control to settle a dispute with Youngstown Thermal, which contended the city owed it about $160,000 in unpaid steam service to city hall caused by a broken meter owned by the company.

This is not the first utility to pose a remedy to the city’s financial situation.

Aqua Ohio wants to buy the city’s water system for at least $50 million.

Brown said he’s not interested.

“Water is our biggest asset right now,” he said.

Aqua previously said during a Vindicator editorial board interview that $50 million was just a starting offer.

The city brings in about $32 million a year on its water system, according to Vindicator files.

McNally and Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, both thought the $50 million offer from Aqua wasn’t sufficient.

“The administration and city council need to make sure we do our due diligence to work through this budget shortfall and not just take these quick solutions,” McNally said of both offers.

Ray agreed. “There will be lots of discussion, research and due diligence to evaluate the offers.”

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