2011-08-11 / Front Page

Southern Fulton Weighs Energy Savings Options

Elementary to start off school year without air conditioning
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Weighing their immediate as well as their long-term needs, the Southern Fulton School Board convened last Tuesday in a special meeting to hear energy savings ideas presented by two representatives of Honeywell.

Renowned for their thermostats, more than 50 percent of Honeywell’s products and services are directly linked to improving energy efficiency, said company account executive Russell Newbold. Newbold went on to say that Honeywell has pioneered energy performance contacting with over 5,000 projects implemented nationally in various settings, including schools and government offices.

Newbold stated externs such as increasing healthcare and utility costs are creating challenges and issues within the district. Additional challenges include aging infrastructure, aging HVAC and inefficient lighting.

Based on those pressing issues, Newbold asked the district to consider entering into an “energy savings performance contact,” which would result in an upgrade to outdated control and technology systems and a reduction in operational expenses. The program is purportedly “self-funded,” and Honeywell guarantees savings. Any excess beyond the guaranteed savings would be kept by the district, Newbold said.

“Most times you will easily surpass the guaranteed savings,” stated the account executive. “ ... You can then use those guaranteed savings to complete your infrastructure projects today.”

With a cost agreed upon before the project even starts, Newbold said there will be “no surprises” as well as no change orders that typically cause a project to go over budget. The money needed to cover project expenses can originate from several sources, including the district’s operation budget for maintenance, repairs and utilities and the capital budget. It was also suggested the district could do a bond and structure the bond payments around the projected savings or enter in to a tax-exempt lease with a bank.

Funding sources ranging from rebates to grants can reduce the overall cost, Newbold stated Honeywell has already spoken with officials from Allegheny Power, and rebates are possible if the district undertakes a lighting retrofit. Rebate paperwork will be completed and submitted by Honeywell.

In the event Southern Fulton is interested in pursuing energy savings, the next step in the process, according to Newbold, is the completion of a free energy audit. The lone commitment by the district would be to offer Honeywell the opportunity to solicit their business.

“There is a project here to improve infrastructure,” indicated Newbold.

During the question-andanswer session of the presentation, Newbold, along with senior energy analyst Kevin Wong, fielded a variety of questions primarily dealing with funding and financing. Newbold had termed the project as “budget neutral,” to which board President Kenny Wuertenberg said, “There is always a cost ... it’s just not always in dollars and cents.”

“We have a plan and a fund to pay our debt. We’re conservative on how we move on larger ticket items,” he added.

“I keep thinking I’m missing something that’s going to cost us money somewhere,” said board member Allen Morton.

Wong told the board and administration, “You’re paying costs every day to a bank or utility company instead of Honeywell when you could be operating more efficiently and comfortably.”

The board requested Honeywell provide it with references of school districts they’ve worked with in Pennsylvania and organizations where they’ve had to pay out money for not reaching guaranteed savings.

After the presentation, Superintendent Kendra Trail informed the board she would be meeting with Rick Evans of Reynolds to discuss their ideas for energy savings. The possibility may exist Evans will appear before the board for a final presentation during their next meeting scheduled for August 16.

The board moved on to hear from building and grounds supervisor Michael Shaw concerning a chiller at the elementary facility that has failed and will not be fixed in time for the start of school on August 22.

Shaw said the chiller had operated on only one of two compressors for a 10-year period. As a result, one of the compressors has logged almost 25,000 hours. Now with both compressors out of system, the recommendation to the board was to either replace the compressors or purchase a new 80-ton outdoor unit with heat exchange and refrigerant lines.

Due to the age of the unit, the board unanimously agreed on a 7-0 roll-call vote for a replacement at a cost not to exceed $75,000. Furthermore, window air-conditioning units will be purchased in the meantime to be placed in classrooms used by “medically fragile students” before the start of the 2011-12 school year.

The board held an executive session at the conclusion of their meeting to discuss negotiations. The behind-doors discussion was followed by a walk-through of the high school to review potential maintenance upgrades.

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