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Library earns big reward for energy revamp

Minnesota Energy presents a sizeable rebate check to the Detroit Lakes Library. Those helping with the presentation Wednesday include, from left, Mike Warweg (Minnesota Energy), Brad Green (Detroit Lakes Public Works), Mike Johnson (Minnesota Energy), Kevin Disse (KGD Engineering), Mary Haney (Detroit Lakes Library), Ron Zeman (Detroit Lakes alderman), Matt Torgerson (Minnesota Energy) and Pam Sarvela (Minnesota Energy). Pippi Mayfield/Record

Last summer, Kevin Disse with KGD Engineering did an energy audit for the Detroit Lakes Library.

He noted improvements that needed to be made, and the city invested in those changes for the sake of the building and those using it.

Though it was a large investment, the city will be paid back in a short period of time.

Last week, Minnesota Energy presented the library with a $9,920 rebate check for energy saved for just one year. The project should pay for itself within four and a half years, Disse said.

"We sell gas but pay you to use less," Pam Sarvela said with a laugh. Sarvela, external affairs leader with Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation, helped present the rebate check to the library Wednesday afternoon.

Disse added that the library will also save about $600 a year in electric costs simply by regulating the main meeting room.

"It's a fairly simple project but a lot of savings," he said.

The project began last year when Head Librarian Mary Haney asked Disse to come take a look at the ice that formed each winter outside the library. Anyone who has been past the library knows the chunk of ice that one year people even said took on the appearance of the Virgin Mary.

While there, Disse suggested the energy audit because the library was facing other issues, including snow coming under the door on the old Carnegie portion of the library -- which turns 100 years old this year -- and the heating and cooling of the meeting room not being regulated correctly.

The results led to improvements including changing the doors in the old section of the building, new insulation in the older section -- Disse said sawdust was being used as insulation -- a tune-up on the entire mechanical system and a change to the boiler controls. The meeting room was also fitted with its own heating and cooling electric system.

Haney said the room was never warm enough in the winter and never cool enough in the summer. The meeting room is where most events for the public are held.

Disse said with the changes that have been made, the library -- and ultimately the city since that is the entity that pays for the building and its upkeep -- will be saving about $1.50 per therm on an annual basis.

Haney said that saving on the heating and cooling of the building may free up money for other projects needed around the library.

The project's total cost was about $45,000.

Disse said there is a new state program that will help with enhanced energy projects, but it is so new that the city couldn't have even applied for assistance when the library did this project. Disse, who sits on the state board, said there will be more energy projects like the library's now that there is an assistance program out there.

Minnesota Energy is using the Conservation Improvement Program, which can be used for commercial and residential projects, to encourage people to make their homes and businesses more efficient and receive rebate checks.

The size of the rebate check depends on the size of the project.

"It's more comfortable now -- especially in the main meeting room," Haney said now that the project has been completed.

She added that it wasn't done just to be doing a project but rather for the good of the building and a large savings in energy.

"It takes an investment to keep a building running," Haney said. "We have a beautiful building. We also need to keep it comfortable."

Disse said the library project was a fun one, working with the library staff on a regular basis.

"With old buildings like this, things pop up you're not aware of," he said.

"I can't stop smiling, giving away money. It's my favorite part of my job," Sarvela said Wednesday with a smile.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.