[Updated on Oct. 3 at 3:40 p.m.]
More than $7.3 million will be spent on 97 projects in Watertown's schools and municipal in an effort to make town buildings at least 20 percent more energy efficient.
The Town Council approved the energy savings project proposed by Johnson Controls, which will impact 14 buildings in Watertown. Over the course of 20 years, the projects - which include replacing boilers, installing modern climate controls and improve air flow - will save the town $12.7 million in energy costs, said Beth Greenblatt of Beacon Integrated Solutions, who was hired by the town as a consultant for the project.
After the debt service on the project has been paid off after 20 years, Greenblatt said the energy savings will mean the town should come out $1.97 million ahead.
The project will be "cost neutral," Greenblatt said, with the money saved in energy costs going to pay off the debt from the construction over 20 years.
Town Council President Mark Sideris said he sees the project as a big step forward for Watertown, especially in the schools.
"We hear stories of windows at schools being left open in the winter because people are too hot, and other areas of the school where students are wearing coats because they are too cold," Sideris said. "This has a significant benefit for the schools."
When all the projects have been completed, the town is expected to save 22 percent in electricity costs and 32 percent in natural gas costs, Greenblatt said.
Town Councilor Vincent Piccirilli has worked on the energy savings project since it began in the spring of 2008, and he was pleased with what he saw.
"This exceeds my expectations," Piccirilli said.
If the savings do not come in as projected by Johnson Controls, the company will have to pay the town for the shortfall.
"Under this type of process, Johnson Controls is responsible," Piccirilli said. "They don't want to write a check at the end of the year.'
While the projects focus on modernizing equipment such as boilers, Town Councilor Cecilia Lenk noted that there are no renewable energy projects, such as solar panels.
The project focuses on the traditional projects, said Jim Cotton, area general manager for Johnson Controls.
"Solar photovoltaic cells are the best renewable technology out there, but the federal incentives for those are not available to municipalities," Cotton said.
Under the anticipated timeline a contract will be negotiated with and signed by Johnson Controls by the end of 2012, and loans will be secured by February 2013, Greenblatt said.
Much of the work on the schools will start in the spring of 2013 and will be completed by the beginning of school in September 2013, Cotton said. He said the whole project should be finished by the spring of 2014.
The town needs seed money of nearly $540,000 to get the project started, said Town Manager Michael Driscoll.