Originally created 07/11/98

Unreturned phone calls cost Atlanta $1.5 million chance



ATLANTA -- Atlanta has missed out on an opportunity for a $1.5 million grant from a Ted Turner-backed foundation because city officials wouldn't return phone calls.

The grant was aimed at financing a sophisticated energy conservation program for Atlanta, similar to one that is predicted to save Philadelphia an estimated $58 million over nine years.

Jonathan Roseman, program manager for the Turner Foundation, said he called city officials 47 times while trying to arrange the grant and received no response.

"I don't deny that," said Larry Wallace, Atlanta's chief administrative officer."During the time we were dealing with them, a lot of people were changing positions and responsibilities, including myself."

Those efforts were to have included auditing all city buildings, renegotiating contracts with energy suppliers, analyzing possible overbilling, retrofitting equipment and replacing inefficient lighting.

But an apparent lack of interest and focus derailed the deal, as city officials missed the foundation's Jan. 9 deadline and ultimately rejected the grant in February.

Mr. Wallace said the city has received similar offers from Georgia Power Co., Carolina Power & Light Co. and Johnson Controls.

All offered to show the city how to save money on its electric bills. However, the city is obligated to buy the companies' equipment, Mr. Wallace conceded.

The city apparently has not accepted any of the competing proposals, said Robin Chanay, who served as co-chairwoman of the now-defunct Mayor's Task Force on the Environment.