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TEXARKANA, Ark. — Four of Miller County's main buildings should be more energy-efficient by the end of this year — and that process started last week.

Eight of 10 justices of the peace present at Thursday's special Miller County Quorum Court meeting last week voted in favor of going forward with financing the process following the agreement's third and final reading.

The county enter into an Arkansas Energy Office Performance Contract with the McKinstry energy-efficiency consulting firm's Little Rock-based office, and it is now able to borrow up to $5.1 million for improving the lighting, heating and cooling operations for the four buildings. The county will have up to 20 years to pay back the loan.

Buildings needing the improvements include the Miller County Courthouse, inmate detention center, health unit and Lantz Lurry Juvenile Detention Center.

Jimmy Hickey, one of the justices of the peace who voted against the measure, said the county taking more than 10 years to pay something back is too long.

Some of the improvements would include adding solar panels, replacing an aged boiler and installing central air conditioningto replace the building's aged window units.

The 1939 courthouse turned 80 years old last year, while the county's health unit use to be the old Michael Meagher Memorial Hospital building, originally built in 1916. Even though the county's adult criminal detention center only goes back to 2002, Miller County Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Ernest Pender previously said that heating, cooling and lighting technology is continuously changing and improving.

Money saved by the improvements over the next 20 years could enable the county to reimburse the borrowed funds. This would also include a 3.5% interest rate payment.

McKinstry, which started its energy-efficiency study of the county's four buildings in the fall of 2019, recently completed its findings.

Energy-efficiency improvements on the four buildings could be mostly finished by January of 2021.

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