On a night when the village of McFarland swore in a new police chief and village board trustee, the village board continued weighing the designs of a sustainable municipal building that’s been in progress since last year.
Set to break ground this fall, the village is planning to construct a public safety center at Holscher Road and Broadhead St. to house McFarland’s municipal, fire and police departments and the village’s municipal court.
Through a geothermal system below ground and solar panels mounted on the roof and surrounding area, the building is envisioned to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes every year. It’s expected to be the first net zero energy public safety center in the state.
The McFarland Village Board voted on May 24 to hire Huffman Facility Development Inc. of Cambridge as a construction manager on the project, to be a liaison between the village’s architect and construction companies, and oversee day to day progress.
Board members reacted favorably to the oversight a construction manager would provide. The project recently saw about a $2.1 million cost increase, taking the cost of the project from $16.9 million to $19.1 million.
Newly-appointed Village Trustee Edward Wreh said he believes the project does need more oversight after the cost spikes, and expressed concern over seeing future increases.
Hiring Huffman Facility Development will cost the village about $171,000, which was budgeted for, said Village Administrator Matt Schuenke.
The village board also began weighing a solar partnership with Alliant Energy of Madison at the center.
Initial plans for the center included the village of McFarland investing in its own solar array for the building and the necessary electrical system to generate solar energy.
However, Schuenke said the village also could join a customer-hosted renewable energy program, in which Alliant Energy would lease the roof of the public safety center and install Alliant-owned solar panels.
Schuenke said Alliant would own and be responsible for the panels and maintenance, and the village would receive a monthly lease payment.
Schuenke said an early estimate of a McFarland-owned solar system is around $1.3 million. That figure includes estimates of the initial solar array purchase for about $800,000, and projected utility and maintenance costs for 20 years.
The financial impact of a partnership isn’t finalized yet, Schuenke said. He expects to receive a proposal from Alliant Energy in early June.
Several board members said they’d need more information from Alliant Energy before any decisions are made.
“The idea on paper of saving an $800,000 initial investment is awesome,” said trustee Chris St. Clair. However, “that’s all going to obviously depend on what Alliant’s proposal looks like.”
Trustee Carrie Nelson said she was open to the partnership, but skeptical about “getting into an agreement with a company whose priority is their shareholders.” She said she’d like to know “how are they prioritizing net zero energy, and McFarland citizens, rather than their bottom line?”