Failed Chiller and Boiler System Leads to Long-Term Cost Savings for the City of Fremont

What was an unfortunate event ended up being a fortuitous situation for the Ohio city

Fremont Muni Bldg

By Dan Dowell

Cities around the country are faced with challenges to maintain the infrastructure of their public facilities. When vital upgrades are needed, city officials are often forced to seek new, creative ways to fund the improvements.  

The City of Fremont, Ohio, is no different. The City of Fremont, which serves as the county seat of Sandusky County, has more than 16,000 residents. The city is focused on economic development and increasing its population by more than 20 percent by 2028 by bringing new businesses and housing into the area.  

But while city officials focused on development, they faced an unforeseen challenge after a boiler and chiller system failed at one of its facilities. The city was not ready for this unexpected system failure and did not have money budgeted for the system’s repair.  

With another cold Ohio winter on the horizon, the city needed to replace this system, but wanted to avoid reaching into its capital budget or exploring potential tax increases. 

While there are state and federal grants available, most are extremely competitive due to limited funding and large pools of applicants. Since the boiler and chiller system repair was an immediate need, city officials chose to act quickly. 

The system failure may have seemed like an unfortunate event at the time, but it ended up being a fortuitous situation for the City of Fremont. It led officials to begin making a capital improvement plan, exploring all the areas where the city needed to upgrade its infrastructure and facilities. 

After a review of its facilities, the city determined it needed infrastructure upgrades at its Municipal Building, Recreational Center, Water Treatment Plant, Police Station, Streets Building, Parks Building, Central Fire Station and Eastside Fire Station. 

While developing the plan, city officials reached out to Campbell, Inc., in Northwood, Ohio, to discuss replacement of the failed chiller and boiler system.  

Over the last two years, Campbell Inc. has provided preventive maintenance programs for several of Fremont’s mechanical systems. They were called in to speak with Fremont officials about the failed chiller and boiler system, and other potential upgrades to help operate more efficiently and fiscally responsibly. 

Bob Eaton, CEO of Campbell, Inc., said the company saw opportunities for the city to address more of its infrastructure needs, and approached its affiliate, ABM, to help explore an energy performance contracting program. Campbell, Inc. is part of ABM’s Linc Service franchise network. 

ABM’s Energy Performance Contracting program provides an opportunity to make energy-efficient upgrades, without upfront costs. Instead, the customized program uses the guaranteed energy and operational cost savings to pay for the upgrades. The program is a financial solution designed to allow organizations to make infrastructure investments, without drastically impacting budgets. 

ABM developed a customized solution to help the city upgrade its infrastructure and facilities, without incurring any upfront costs.  

The program is projected to save City of Fremont more than $12 million in energy and operating costs over the next 15 years, which will fully fund a variety of infrastructure improvements throughout eight city-owned facilities, while providing upgraded commercial and residential water meters for approximately 5,000 residents. 

“ABM’s customized solution for the City of Fremont will allow us to upgrade our existing facilities through energy and operational savings, without committing any additional funding to update the city’s infrastructure for our residents,” said Fremont Mayor Danny Sanchez. "This will provide the city with funds to positively impact all of our residents.” 

Energy and operations savings will be achieved by upgrading city-owned streetlights to energy-efficient lighting, retrofitting HVAC units and installing controls at eight of the city’s facilities.  

One of the largest elements driving the city’s cost savings is upgraded lighting throughout the city. The program includes retrofitted lighting systems, which upgrades city-owned street and bridge lights, and lighting at all of its facilities to energy-efficient LED lighting systems. 

The city will either replace or retrofit existing HVAC units at six of its facilities, which will be controlled by state-of-the-art HVAC control systems to maximize energy and operational efficiency. Each facility will realize additional energy savings with upgraded ventilation systems, which includes sealing building envelopes and resealing windows. 

In addition, the City of Fremont will achieve savings by utilizing upgraded building automation systems at the recreational center, municipal building and police station. While the systems will increase the buildings’ functionality, it will also create operational savings and a more comfortable environment for employees and patrons. 

Along with the facility upgrades, the project will also help the city’s Water Treatment Plant create a positive cash flow with upgraded, modern water meters for more than 5,000 residential and commercial properties. 

The upgraded water meters will eliminate the city’s practice of issuing fluctuating bills based on estimated water readings. Instead, the water meters will provide more accurate reads, and provide officials with automated leak detection, to help the city quickly detect and repair leaks. 

The meters will help the city reduce Non-Revenue Water (NRW), which is water currently provided to the customers without proper billing due to the current water meters’ inaccurate metering, caused by problems such as undetected leaks in the system. The meters’ benefit to customers is predictable billing, as they provide more accurate flow monitoring and allow officials to quickly detect and repair leaks, keeping them from being billed for water lost to leaks. 

In all, the upgrades will save the City of Fremont over $740,000 in energy and operating costs in the first year, which will climb during the life of the program, resulting in more than $12 million in savings. 

While the City of Fremont had originally intended to replace its failed boiler and chiller system, it was able to use ABM’s Energy Performance Contracting program to make lasting changes throughout the entire city. The upgraded HVAC units and controls, building automation systems, and new water meters serve as an investment in the city’s infrastructure that will last for years to come. 

The Author: Dan Dowell, is senior VP bundled energy solutions at ABM Industries where he has helped private and public sector client for nearly twenty years in structuring financial solutions to their critical infrastructure needs. ABM is a leading provider of facility solutions with revenues of approximately $5.1 billion and over 130,000 employees in 350+ offices throughout the United States and various international locations. For more information, visit  

More in Building Automation