Taxpayers’ money will go further with a wide range of energy-efficiency upgrades at the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District’s five stations and its education center.

The most visible changes will be at what was called the Training Center, now the Steven P. Westermann Education Center, renamed late in 2017 for the longtime chief who retired last year. It’s the facility on U.S. 40 on the west side of Blue Springs.

“It’s going to be 100 percent solar,” said Chief Jeff Grote.

CJC serves Blue Springs, Grain Valley and Lake Tapawingo.

Grote said last year a CJC firefighter brought a state program to his attention. The Division of Energy, part of the Department of Economic Development, makes interest-free loans to local governments, mostly cities and schools. Grote checked it out, and now CJC is the first fire district in the state to take part.

For less than $500,000, the district plans to install LED lighting fixtures and solar film on the windows at all facilities, and the education center – which also houses its emergency operations center – will get solar power.

The district will reduce its carbon footprint and should save more than $48,000 a month – or more as energy usage and prices go up.The loan should be repaid in seven and a half to eight years.

“It’s good government all the way around,” Grote said.

Next up: Another interest-free loan for upgrades to heating and cooling systems, leading to more savings. But first, Grote says, the solar and LED lighting needs to get done. That work starts in a few weeks and should take about four months.