Vernon Hills board leans toward joining energy consortium but wary of future costs
Vernon Hills village officials informally have agreed to join a coordinated effort to increase energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint in municipal, residential and other buildings.
Trustees agree there may be strength in numbers to attract and leverage federal dollars for energy-saving projects and initiatives, but they are wary about potential consulting or engineering fees.
The Vernon Township Energy Resilience Commission held its first meeting Dec. 12 and has been working to assemble a consortium of several communities, school districts and other entities.
"We see ourselves at the township as the conduit," Township Supervisor Jonathan Altenberg recently explained to village trustees.
"That could be anything from creating a solar farm that everyone can work off of to providing financial assistance or incentives to put solar panels onto your home or building," he added.
Vernon Hills and others are being asked to sign a memorandum of understanding to partner with Veregy, a consultant selected by the township.
By joining, members initially agree to have Veregy analyze conditions and complete feasibility studies to identify possible efficiency projects and opportunities for economies of scale to pursue competitive grant funding, according to an overview provided to village trustees.
That first step is voluntary with no obligation or cost to participants, Altenberg said. Veregy would do analysis upfront to the point of applying for grants or commission an engineering firm, for example.
"The actual commitment to projects would come much later," Altenberg said. "You determine what you want to move forward with or don't want to move forward with and they develop a program or plan."
Vernon Township has created a project manager position and is paying the University of Illinois to conduct an associated study of strategies to reduce the carbon footprint, Altenberg said.
"The idea here is that the cost will not be put on the communities," he said. Funding for a variety of green initiatives is expected to be made available through the federal Build Back Better plan, which still is in flux.
Veregy was recommended by a Buffalo Grove employee who had worked with the firm in the past, according to Altenberg. He said there were no responses from consortium members on other firms.
Vernon Hills Trustee Michael Schenk said details of what follows must be transparent.
"Sometimes, it's the cost of doing business," he said of having a consultant. "If it doesn't cost us anything to see the analysis, it's a no-brainer."
Trustee Nancy Forster and Village Manager Kevin Timony attended a township resiliency commission meeting Jan. 25 to discuss next steps.
"This initial phase is literally at no risk. We can walk away," she said.
She said much of the discussion among trustees was hypothetical and having concrete information will determine if its right for the village.
"I don't want anyone to think that if we were to participate in this first part that we are committing by any means," Forster said.
A memorandum of understanding will be drafted by the village staff for official action by the board at a future meeting.