2011-10-27 / Front Page

Trail: Where Does SF Go From Here?

Superintendent questions board as to how it plans to tackle building needs
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER

After hearing presentation after presentation on possible heating alternatives, Southern Fulton School District Superintendent Kendra Trail stood before the school board last week with only one question needing answered, “Where do we go from here?”

Trail pointed out to those on hand the district had an energy audit completed three to four years ago but at the time opted not to move forward due to a feasibility study. That study, according to Trail, has since been completed and focus areas have been identified in terms of problem areas in district facilities. In addition, the board has also heard information on biomass boilers, energy savings and even coal, which was presented to the board last Tuesday evening by Jeff Gingerich from Economical Energy.

Trail went on to mention all of the problems the district has encountered since July of this year such as the chiller, HVAC, hot water circulators and the generator at the high school. Other equipment ranging from dishwashers and steam ovens to convection ovens have required repairs.

Quoting Winston Churchill, Trail said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”

In the event the board would decide to proceed with an energy audit, Trail stated the district’s utility bills and facilities would be evaluated; an agreement would be penned for an energy grade investment audit; and a contract would be signed for guaranteed energy savings. The board could decide to stop at any time during the three-step process and pay an opt-out fee.

Asked to share what she felt were the district’s top concerns at this time, Trail noted the humidity at the high school remains a problem, therefore the building’s HVAC should be addressed as should lighting and windows. With a projected $5.5 million in possible projects outlined for the board, it was suggested the district begin putting away money to address the issues.

Board President Kenny Wuertenberg told the superintendent the board’s reluctance in making a decision so far is likely due to having to “borrow money.” Fellow board member Pat Bard said the district has already incurred $5.1 million in debt and these projects would add to it.

“We either jump or we don’t,” added Allen Morton, who said it would be impossible to complete such an undertaking without the help of state reimbursement.

Trail announced she felt the district was throwing away money by not taking a hard look at a guaranteed energy savings contract. Wuertenberg countered that the question remained whether the district would save enough money in the long run to overcome what they would invest.

“You sell the voters in this district on going into debt. I don’t believe it, but you can nonetheless sell it” Wuertenberg told Trail and the board. He suggested a more planned approach to finishing the projects.

Hearing such varied input from the board, Trail indicated the board didn’t appear to be agreeing to the projects or even the topic of reimbursement. Wuerternberg told the superintendent to return to the board with a plan at the November 15 meeting instead of a “bunch of ideas.”

“We’ll either vote it up or down,” he said.

“It’s like shooting in the dark,” Trail responded.

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