Office of Energy and Sustainability temporarily closes

Cassie Buchman, Associate News Editor

As a result of the budget impasse and recent layoffs, the Office of Energy and Sustainability has been temporarily closed.

After the campus energy and sustainability coordinator was one of the 177 positions eliminated in March, it was reported on the University Newsletter that the office would close March 12.

The Office of Energy and Sustainability fulfilled many roles on campus. It was in charge of the campus recycling program, utility billing, operated the Office Supply Store, coordinated the Zipcar service, identified energy efficiency improvements, handled the solid waste contracts, and oversaw energy procurement strategies for campus.

The Office also oversaw the measurement and verification activities associated with Eastern’s $80 million performance contract. This contract included the construction of the Renewable Energy Center, which officially opened in 2011 and replaced the coal-burning plant the university had been using since 1928.

Ryan Siegel, an administrative assistant in facilities planning and management, said the Renewable Energy Center is continuing to operate as it did while the Office of Energy and Sustainability was open.

However, the responsibilities of other, different areas are being divided between several people from the department of facilities planning and management, and some have not been assigned at all.

Travis Magee, the custodial supervisor for building service workers, is now in charge of the campus recycling program and directs a Campus Recycling Crew of student workers.

He also handles solid waste contracts and operates the Office Supply Store.

Magee said he helps if people have problems with recycling or the dumpsters at any of the buildings on campus.

For instance, if a dumpster needs emptying, they will call Advanced Disposal.

Those that are in charge of collecting the recycling take it to CCAR Industries.

With his new recycling responsibilities as well as doing the duties of his current job, Magee said he is just doing the best that he can like everyone else on campus, though there is more for him to do.

“I’m not complaining by any means,” Magee said. “With more work, everybody has to do their part and get things done.”

He said to do this, his hours are adjusted on some days, and he comes in earlier in the morning depending on what he has to do.

Because the campus is pretty big, it creates a lot of recycling, which keeps the recycling guys busy, Magee said.

Siegel said he hopes the closing of the Office of Energy and Sustainability will have a minimal impact on the campus in the short term, but the impacts could become more substantial as time progresses if the duties that are not yet assigned are not assigned in the long term.

These impacts could be particularly substantial for the setting of utility rates and the identification of energy efficiency improvements.

As of now, identification of energy efficiency improvements, the task of applying for energy efficiency rebates, mandated state reporting on solid waste recycling efforts, input property transfers into the State Central Management Services system and rate setting for the utility auxiliary enterprise and the job of coordinating Zipcars and the adviser for the student sustainability registered student organization Earthwise is not yet assigned.

Chris Childress, accounting associate of the department of facilities planning and management, is now in charge of the operation of the Utility Auxiliary Enterprise, including utility billing. Josh Awalt, an IT Technical Associate, is in charge of the destruction of records and other confidential materials. Tim Zimmer, director of facilities planning and management, now oversees energy procurement strategies for campus.

“As the university is hopeful the layoffs will be short term, I am hopeful the Office will reopen and resume these duties,” Siegel said.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]