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County Kicks in Funds for Geothermal Work at ACM

June 15, 2008

By Kevin Spradlin, Cumberland Times News, Md.

Jun. 15–The Allegany County commissioners allocated an extra $326,000 to the geothermal conversion project at Allegany College of Maryland’s physical education building.

The money was left over from the county’s share of the 11,000-square-foot library addition and available due to a construction bid below estimate. ACM officials recently requested the money be redirected to the energy-efficient geothermal project.

Commission President Jim Stakem said Thursday it is common for the county to reallocate dollars not spent on one project directly to another. Don Hedrick, retired physical plant director for Allegany College of Maryland, said the state also reallocated a portion of its share of the library project to the physical education building. The county’s $326,000 covers about 50 percent of the project’s total cost, Hedrick said.

The conversion will help college officials realize “anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 a year in savings,” Hedrick said of the “energy hog” of a building.

“This is a one-time chance to change that,” he said. “Just because there’s some extra money available. It came in under bid and we asked to use those funds.”

The physical education building opened for use in 1969 and was renovated several years ago. During that renovation, college officials wanted to convert the building to geothermal energy. But it was cost-prohibitive at the time, with an estimate between $1.2 million and $1.5 million.

“The project came in well over bid at the time,” Hedrick said. “Back then, they had to install a lot of equipment that they don’t have to install now because it was installed during the renovation. The main cost is the wells themselves.”

During the renovation project, an Eastern Shore company was the low bidder. The company would have had to haul its equipment and arrange for lodging for their workers, significantly adding to the cost of the project. Now, Hedrick said, local workers — including Wayne’s Water ‘N Wells of Oakland, and Lashley Construction of Frostburg — have been hired to do the job.

A third local company is expected to be awarded a contract Monday by ACM’s board of directors. Once that occurs, Hedrick said work could begin at the physical education building “as early as Tuesday morning” with plans of having work completed during the fall semester.

This latest project won’t be the end of the college’s efforts to go “green” and reduce energy costs. Hedrick said the college is “in the drawing stages” of planning for a new, 12,000-square-foot physical plant building with geothermal capabilities.

The auto tech building would then move into the current physical plant building while the auto tech center undergoes a geothermal conversation.

Contact Kevin Spradlin at kspradlin@times-news.com.

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