The Merced City Council on Monday accepted more than $390,000 in energy efficiency rebates and discussed ways to recruit volunteers to help the city.
A $292,689.83 rebate came from the Merced Irrigation District and a $99,084.94 check was from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., according to city documents.
In late 2011, the city took out a $7.2 million loan for its energy conservation project, according to city spokesman Mike Conway. Monday's rebate checks will go toward offsetting this year's loan payment of more than $569,000.
Some of the city's energy conservation efforts included replacing interior and exterior lighting in 17 city buildings, including the Civic Center. Officials also focused on water conservation efforts by installing water-saving devices.
City Manager John Bramble said the project consisted of a 15-person staff going through various reports for about a year. "This is a significant event, and we're very pleased with the savings," he said Monday.
From the city's energy conservation savings, officials were able to pay for relining the McNamara Pool, which cost about $25,000, Conway said.
Conway also presented the council with an update of the city's volunteer coordination efforts. The city's 2012-13 budget stopped funding part-time help at the front counter of the Sen-ior Center on weekdays, instead relying on volunteers to staff the facility, he said.
Conway said the volunteer effort was "so successful" in one year that the Senior Center is now open an additional hour each day.
In other departments, the city receives a flurry of calls from the public wanting to volunteer their time to help. Since the city doesn't have a volunteer coordinator, these calls have been handled by Conway.
Councilman Mike Murphy expressed concerns about volunteers not having a city employee to contact for volunteer opportunities.
"I know there are people out there that want to volunteer, but don't know where to start," Murphy said. "and I don't know what to tell them either."
Councilwoman Mary-Michal Rawling agreed. "That's my concern, too," she said. "If we did a better job of asking and putting out there what the opportunities are, we might get a lot more calls."
Conway said volunteers interested in youth projects should contact the Boys and Girls Club of Merced County, while those interested in working at the zoo should call it directly. However, for all other volunteer opportunities, Conway said the public should contact him. "For right now, I've been the contact person," he said.
Bramble said it's difficult for one person to handle volunteer coordination, especially when he has other duties.
Councilman Josh Pedrozo suggested that the city list volunteer opportunities on its website. "If there was something on the website you can point the public to, it would go a long way," he said.
For volunteer opportunities with the city, contact Conway at conwaym@
cityofmerced.org or (209) 385-6232
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@merced sunstar.com.