Solving a $225,000 problem a big lift for Marshall YMCA

Marshall Area YMCA making mechanical upgrades to better efficiency

Submitted photo A crane has been lifting electrical units off and onto the roof of the Marshall YMCA this past week as part of a $800,000 improvement project.

MARSHALL — The Marshall Area YMCA has been facing a $225,000 problem for years.

Thats the average amount spent yearly on electrical costs, according to YMCA Executive Director Tom Bolin.

“This YMCA has an historically high electrical cost from about $225,000 per year (and) is about double any other YMCA in state of Minnesota,” Bolin said.

So the YMCA is making an $800,000 investment to fix the problem.

The YMCA will be starting a capital campaign fundraiser and will also rely heavily on Marshall Municipal Utilities for rebates.

Anyone driving by the Marshall YMCA the past few days probably has noticed a large crane moving heavy objects off from and onto the roof.

“The crane is in town to remove some roof top (Dectron environmental control) unit and move a new one up there,” Bolin said Wednesday.

Armstrong Crane & Rigging Corporation of New Brighton was hired by Alber’s Construction Company from St. Paul (who in turn was hired by the YMCA) to do the crane work, Bolin said.

“The unit coming down is called a Dectron rooftop air handler unit,” Bolin said. “It controls pool atmosphere, heating and cooling. It’s lived its life and needs to be replaced.”

It was too windy to run the crane Wednesday, so the removal of units was done on Tuesday and the replacement on Thursday.

One is done, and three are in the works.

Bolin said that they had started looking at electrical expenses a couple of years ago, looking at a number of infrastructure type things with the Y. Last year they worked on the HVAC system and put in some variable speed fans, motors and other devices to update it to today’s standards.

“After the first 10 months of the year we were about $70,000 ahead of where we were a year ago,” Bolin said. “That project cost some money to do, but it’s paying great dividends — we’re seeing great savings.”

This spring, the Dectron unit, “the size of a charter bus,” quit working, he said. “The staff couldn’t control it anymore, couldn’t turn it off and on or control humidity levels or anything. It was going to cost a lot of money just to be looked at, and basically, they were just going to tell us it was broken. It needs to be replaced.

“We looked at putting a very similar unit on the roof,” Bolin said, “and then, as we worked with our engineer, Todd McInemey, we found out that we had a geothermal system in the building and when that system and the geothermal system were built, they were two separate things, but about two-thirds of what’s in the roof top unit on the roof, we can do with the geothermal system.”

Bolin said the YMCA worked with its engineer to replace it — not with another Dectron — but with a smaller, kind of a normal, non-pool system on the roof and run it through their geo-thermal system.

“We can save another $30,000-$40,000 by doing that each year,” Bolin said.

There are 11 geothermal pumps in the back room that pull water off the grounds and over 200 wells. They heat and cool the water to heat and cool the building. The pumps are 14 years old now and no longer efficient. They’re not doing very well, Bolin said.

“We need very solid pumps to run that well, so we looked at replacing those pumps at the same time,” he said. “The 11 geothermal pumps are being pulled out and replaced by seven because of new efficiencies. Because of that, we need fewer pumps than we did 14 years ago.”

The Marshall Area YMCA pools are temporarily closed because the pumps are being worked on in the back; the Dectron unit has been replaced on the roof and the two systems combined.

During that time, all the swim aerobics students are working out up on the track with alternate workouts, Bolin said, and all the lap-swimmers are temporarily going over to Southwest Minnesota State University to use its lap pool.

In order to keep the SMSU pool open over the holiday break, the college is borrowing a couple of the YMCA lifeguards who are also students at the college.

The YMCA staff is taking advantage of the pool being out of commission.

“Without the unit running, we can’t control the air and pool temperatures,” he said. “So during that month, the staff is cleaning the pools, cleaning all the stainless steel and all the other work we do throughout the year.”

The Y also has a company resurfacing the hot tub during this time. The plaster was chipping and other issues.

“We’re also cleaning our sand filters,” Bolin said. “In the back room there are five filters that are being cleaned. The sand is being sucked out of the filters and new sand is coming in.”

At the same time, the YMCA is getting new chlorine controls. All the chlorine filters are computer controlled, he said. The ones they have are also at the end of their 14-year life span.

“This was a good time to put new controllers on with no water in the pools,” Bolin said.

At the same time, it made sense to the YMCA board of directors to add LED lighting to the facility as well.

“We had some assessments taken, and by changing out the old light fixtures and going with LED, we could save about $21,000- $22,000 a year on electrical costs,” Bolin said, “not counting saving time and money on changing lightbulbs.”

The lightbulbs, he said, have a seven-year warranty.

The YMCA will also get a $14,000 rebate through Marshall Municipal Utilities on its LED changeover. It will also make up the $50,000 cost in about two years, at which time it will hit the break even point and start seeing more savings on energy saved.

“If all goes well with all these changes, we’ll go from $225,000 down to $90,000 range,” he said. “That’s a savings of about $135,000 savings on electricity costs. The building will become much more efficient even though it costs some money up front.

“We’re doing the projects now, because we have to,” he said. “In time, we will also have a capital campaign. In the next year, we’ll be out asking the community to help support keeping the building in great shape.”

YMCA has a lot of projects going on right now, Bolin said. It just seemed like a good time to get them all done. They are changes that the community won’t see, but are very necessary for the facility to function and the community to use.

Funding for these projects have come from a variety of sources, such as rebates, fundraising and capital improvement funds.

In 2016 the HVAC unit had been replaced to the tune of $240,000, which was taken from reserves, Bolin said. The reserves will be paid back each month on the savings over the budgeted monthly expense.

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