Palestine to spend some to save more

EAST PALESTINE – The school district has approved taking out a $541,840 loan to cover the cost of a program that will make school buildings more energy efficient, and Superintendent George Fisk is already earmarking the efficiency savings for paying on the loan and enhancing the district’s reading and math programs.

The board of education adopted a resolution to participate after hearing from Greg Smith of Energy Optimizers, USA.

Smith said House Bill 264, passed in the late 1980s, allows the district to pay for the project without using taxpayer dollars. Energy Optimizers is a vendor-neutral full-service energy efficiency and conservation company that Smith said specializes in Ohio K-12 districts to work on reducing their energy usage and costs.

The district is already doing well with regards to efficiency, he said.

According to his figures the district spends $100,826 a year in electricity costs between the middle and high school buildings and $61,722 at the elementary building. Little more than $52,000 is spent annually on heating costs between the two buildings, with $28,917 spent at the elementary.

“You guys are doing very well with what you have. You are operating your facilities very efficiently and very effectively,” he said.

Despite that, improvements are needed, he added.

The company is suggesting replacing all exterior lighting at facilities with LED lighting and replacing interior lighting with 28-watt bulbs. Interior lighting is currently at 32-watts.

Smith said the interior fixtures would not be replaced, but the bulbs only.

The company would also install motion sensors in the cafeterias and gymnasiums to reduce unnecessary use, and install high efficiency condensing boilers and power surge equipment at each building.

The boilers would not replace existing boilers, but would be used as the primary boilers due to their higher efficiency, he said.

Board of Education member Ron Novak said the district has issues at the high school with certain rooms being too hot and others too cold throughout the year and asked if that could be adjusted.

Smith said the problem could be fixed through the controls and is likely an airflow problem.

The company has guaranteed the district will reap annual savings of at least $56,549, although Smith said they tend to estimate on the low end and indicated it would be higher.

According to the resolution adopted by the board Monday the district is not obligated to pay the company any more than $18,000 should the guaranteed savings not be met or the entire project costs exceeds the estimate given. The cost cannot exceed $702,304, which is based on a 3.65 percent interest rate on a maximum loan term of 15 years.

The project must be reviewed and approved by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission prior to implementation. Should the project be implemented all energy consumption will be tracked for the duration, with energy reports submitted to the commission as required by the Ohio Revised Code. The tracking will be performed by Energy Optimizers and confirmed by a third-party architect or engineering firm for verification, according to the resolution.

Smith said if the commission approves the project it will be implemented in June and completed in November of 2015.

Fisk said 10 percent of the savings will be put toward paying on the loan principal and he anticipates the loan will be paid off before 15 years. The remaining 90 percent of the savings earned through the program will be put toward enhancing reading and mathematics for all grade levels.