East Central College is looking to cut energy costs by upgrading outdated utilities on campus and utilizing an energy savings company to manage the work.

The board of trustees Monday night unanimously approved a proposal to enter into a performance contract with Johnson Controls Inc., a company that specializes in making buildings energy efficient.

President Jon Bauer said the project will not only save the college money, but improve the quality-of-life for students and staff on campus.

“The LEDs will be much brighter,” Bauer said. “This has an effect, particularly outside, on the safety on campus. We’ll have a better more lighted campus than we have now. That’s a functional improvement.”

Several of the college’s HVAC utilities date back to the construction of the college in the 1970s. The agreement with Johnson Controls will fulfill several goals slated in the college’s 2015 master plan to upgrade the campus.

Bauer said looking forward, savings on cutting utility costs, will alleviate the budget difficulties caused by the state’s recent cuts to higher education and, specifically, community colleges budgets.

In January, newly elected Gov. Eric Greitens cut nearly $68 million of higher education funds from the state budget. Nearly 30 percent of ECC’s revenue comes from state funds. The cuts for this year alone totaled out to more than $400,000 — a month’s worth of revenue, according to Bauer.

Cost Cutting Plans

Johnson Controls Account Executive Mike Baker presented a short presentation on what the college could expect savings, and cost wise.

Several lighting upgrades on the interior and exterior of the campus, optimization of water fixtures throughout the school and an installation of a control system server throughout campus will help cut costs, Baker said.

The agreement will cost ECC $1,253,583 over 15 years and is aimed at saving the college money on its utility bills over an extended period of time.

The contract ensures ECC will receive a fixed rate of savings each month on their utilities. If those savings are not met, Johnson Controls will pay the difference.

Bauer called the agreement a “cost-neutral” project. He said the savings are set to pay for the cost over the allotted 15 years.

Bank of America fronted the capital needed from ECC to pay for the projects at a reported 2.7 percent interest rate.

As for construction, Johnson Controls will have an on-site project manager who will lead local a team of local contractors for each project. A representative with Johnson Controls said hiring local contractors and keeping work in the area is an important part of the plan.

“We perform the engineering, all of the project management and some of the work, certainly on the lighting, and then we will try to use local subcontractors when available,” the representative said.

Baker also noted Ameren UE rebates on energy saving utilities will bank the college $46,000 that could be put towards paying Bank of America.

Unanimous Vote

When Baker took questions, several of the trustees wondered how the savings would cover the costs, and many questioned in what manner the company would repay the school if their savings did not equal the amount Johnson Controls had estimated.

One Johnson Controls representative said the company almost never estimates savings incorrectly. He said when there is a savings shortfall, however, the company guarantees the difference will be made up and a check will be presented.

Bauer said he had discussed the plan with a fellow higher education administrator who has worked with Johnson Controls.

After some discussion, the board voted unanimously to approve entering the agreement. Bauer said, while there is no firm date, he believes Johnson Controls will begin working on the campus this spring.

Johnson Controls will return to the board each year during the 15 year agreement to give the trustees an update on savings and how the projects are progressing.