Next week, the County Council is expected to decide how it will proceed with its Zoo, Arts and Parks projects, which include the construction of two new recreation centers and improvements at five others, work estimated to cost $41 million when designed in 2005. But rapidly escalating construction costs have raised the price by $16 million, while the Earth-friendly change orders for the seven facilities would add another $4.6 million to the tab.
County Mayor Peter Corroon has proposed paying the difference with a $20 million bond that's no longer needed for the new professional soccer stadium, but council member Mark Crockett has questioned if the county can afford to fund the energy-efficiency portion of the projects. We think it can't afford not to.
By going green, and designing the new Southwest and Northwest recreation centers to national Leadership in Energy Efficiency Design standards, the energy-efficiency upgrades would pay for themselves in just 8-9 years by reducing natural gas and electric bills by as much as 50 percent. The buildings would be sited to take advantage of natural lighting and passive solar energy. Energy-saving lighting, heating, plumbing, ventilation and air-conditioning systems would be installed.
And the retrofitting of five existing rec centers with new lighting and other energy-efficient fixtures offers an even faster payback, a mere three years. After that, the savings accrue to the taxpayers, and Mother Earth.
It's not just a monetary issue. It's also an environmental issue, and while these projects alone won't cut a swath through the small-particle pollution that sometimes chokes the Wasatch Front, it's safe to say that every little bit helps.
More important, it's a chance for the county to lead by example; an opportunity the County Council should seize. When the savings exceed the costs, and the environmental benefits are a bonus, it's easy being green.