City gets money for hybrid bookmobile

2010-07-24T00:00:00Z City gets money for hybrid bookmobileZACH BENOIT Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
July 24, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Parmly Billings Library’s newest bookmobile will most likely be the city’s first hybrid vehicle, thanks in part to federal stimulus money for energy efficiency and conservation, and will eventually help provide an early branch library in the Heights.

Earlier this year, the library was notified that it would get $50,000 in stimulus money for the new bookmobile after the city of Billings learned it would receive an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant for a little more than $1 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“We’re pretty much fully funded for a traditional bookmobile,” said Bill Cochran, the library’s director. “The grant will pay for the hybrid part of it.”

Other funds

In addition to the grant money, the library has about $117,000 in its equipment replacement program fund, which will add up to cover roughly half of the $350,000 needed for the new vehicle. The library will pay for the rest.

It will feature a Cummins EPA-compliant diesel engine and an electric hybrid drive system.

Even though specific details about it aren’t ready and it may not hit the streets until 2012, the new bookmobile is in the works. Because bookmobiles aren’t a high-demand vehicle, a company will build the new one to the Billings library’s specifications. The work has to be contracted out by next April and could take up to 18 months to complete.

Cochran said the current bookmobile, which carries just fewer than 4,500 items — books, films, music and other media — to locations all over Yellowstone County, has nearly 1,800 primary users but that many others use it on an infrequent basis. That, he said, makes it an important part of the library’s operations.

“It serves everyone in the community but Laurel, which has its own,” Cochran said.

The hybrid bookmobile will also be used as a pilot project for the city to take a look at how city-owned hybrid vehicles perform in Billings’ climate. One of its goals is to replace 25 percent of its internal-combustion engines within 25 years, planning director Candi Beaudry said.

“We’re looking at this as an education piece on how it will work,” she said. “The city is concerned about fossil fuels and fossil fuel use.”

When the new bookmobile arrives, the old one will serve as a backup while library and city officials gauge the hybrid’s effectiveness and work out any bugs. But once that period ends, they plan to use it as a branch library in the Heights.

“The main focus is on getting a downtown facility,” Cochran said. “But we want to do this to give the community a taste of what a branch library would be like.”

Different options

Library officials hope to either renovate the existing downtown facility or build a new library. They also are looking at a West End branch with the College of Technology, as well as a permanent Heights branch.

“Because our (bookmobile) is busy and in use it gives us a chance to test all of these features,” Cochran said. “It’s kind of exciting. It’s a pilot program to see if the city does well with something like this.”

In addition to the $50,000 for the bookmobile, $550,000 of the grant will go toward a one-mile multipurpose trail in Swords Park; $250,000 will go toward identifying city building improvements that will create energy savings; $100,000 will go to train and certify building safety officials and inform the building community on the new International Energy Conservation Code; and $53,000 will help determine and monitor baseline energy use levels in buildings, including through the use of a public-awareness campaign.

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