Cash-strapped Hilton Head Arts Center to make energy upgrades

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Cash-strapped Hilton Head Arts Center to make energy upgrades

Published Wednesday, February 20, 2013   |  551 Words  |  

The cash-strapped Arts Center of Coastal Carolina would have to shell out nearly $12,000 to make its building more energy-efficient and cut the $100,000 it pays in annual power bills.

That's the result of a new energy audit performed by Palmetto Electric Cooperative for the center at Shelter Cove on Hilton Head Island.

Some of the lower-cost energy improvements will be made, but the center will hold off on costlier ones, according to Kathleen Bateson, the center's president and CEO.

Arts center leaders are searching for ways to save money. Tax returns indicate the center has operated in the red for most, if not all, of its 17-year existence, when interest expense and depreciation are taken into account. It is surviving the winter in large part because of a $346,000 advance in accommodations-tax money from the town.

Bateson has said the town or some other entity should take over the building and the expense of operating and updating it.

But Town Council members have been hesitant to seriously consider such a proposal, which would put taxpayers on the hook. Instead, the town seeks an arts consulting group to come up with long-term funding solutions for the center and other arts groups.

Meanwhile, the center is looking for ways to trim costs, including cutting its electric bill. Nearly 70 percent of the $100,000 bill comes from heating and cooling the 45,000-square-foot space, according to the audit.

The center does not include the most up-to-date, energy-conserving technology, according to the audit.

For example, the heating and air conditioning control does not allow the system to meet cooling demand and also conserve energy, the audit says. And the center's energy cost per square foot is slightly higher than other public-assembly facilities because it is entirely electric-power based -- the only readily available energy source in the area, the audit says.

The need for high-wattage lighting tailored for performances, temperatures that make crowds comfortable, and a need to run the heating and air conditioning system at a level that prevents mold and mildew on stage curtains and other items mean savings solutions are limited.

Audit recommendations include replacing bulbs with energy-efficient ones and upgrading the heating and cooling system with more energy-efficient parts and controls. In total, the upgrades would cost nearly $12,000 for an annual savings of more than $7,000.

The center will switch out some of its bulbs and shut down its chilled-water pump during off-hours, as the audit recommends, Bateson said Wednesday. Those changes will cost about $1,500.

But it will hold off on paying nearly $8,000 to upgrade the heating and cooling control system, she said.

"That's a big expense and a long-term solution that has to be discussed more," she said.

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