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City is doing what it can to save money

One of the challenges the city faces this summer as it prepares its budget for next year is the same one our citizens and businesses confront: how much will energy costs go up? Our providers of fuel and utilities aren't making any predictions. But clearly, the prudent thing to do is to plan for more cost increases.

At the same time, the city is taking concrete steps to conserve energy and lessen the impact on the city's budget. Here are a few of the measures we've taken, big and small.

The city has contracted with Johnson Controls, which produces products to increase the efficiency of buildings, to audit energy consumption in all of our buildings. The audit should tell us when it makes sense to spend more money to save more. In some cases, it may pay to make an investment in additional insulation; in others, a change from one kind of heating system to another could provide a benefit.

Parks and Recreation has retrofitted lighting in the ice arena to reduce monthly bills. Employees are instructed to think twice about making a vehicle trip, and to use the double-sided printing option on the copiers.

Public works is looking into buying fuel in cooperation with other local governments to get a better price. Workers have been asked to reduce vehicle idling unless it would burn more gas to start and stop vehicles.

In finance, the new IT coordinator is looking for ways to run our computers more efficiently and reduce electricity use. The finance folks are often the last out the door at city hall; they make sure the lights are out.

Community development will soon set up zones for its enforcement efforts so that Inspectors are not constantly running from one side of town to the other. Like in the other departments, carpooling is key when more than one employee is heading to a meeting.

Of course, we have to balance the desire to avoid energy costs with the need to provide services to the community. The police department is an example of this. The department is monitoring the miles driven by patrol cars very closely. But there is no set limit on officers' driving. We want them to maintain their visibility throughout the community. We want them to continue what's called "Officer-generated activity" -- drunk driving and drug enforcement -- that would suffer if they are sidelined during their shifts to save a gallon of gas.

The bottom line of many of these conservation efforts is hard to measure. But the city of Rosemount is clearly using a smaller amount of energy than it did before. As community development director, I continue to work with our green committee to seek additional savings.

We know that many families in Rosemount are pinched by current economic conditions, that many are forced to cut back in what they can spend at home. With these energy conservation efforts and with the city council's overall approach to creating a conservative spending plan for 2009, we intend to help citizens with their burdens -- not add to them.