Geothermal endorsed by committee to school board

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Prospective savings from geothermal heating and cooling impressed members of Marshall County's Education Committee last week when the commissioners on that committee recommended further examination by local schools leaders.

The county's nine schools appear to be suitable for renovation with a system that would take advantage of a constant temperature underground so as to knock off the chill from air in the winter and, in the warmer months, make air conditioning easier for that system, County Commissioner Don Ledford said.

"They are proposing to write the grant for us," Ledford said of Capital Project Solutions, a business that was in contact with county leaders last summer.

A grant might be "for a few thousand to maybe several hundred thousand dollars," the commissioner said after the Thursday night committee meeting.

A representative from Capital Project Solutions was advised that "Marshall County doesn't have a lot of cash and that we're not opposed to looking at it or doing something that will not cost us any money," Ledford said.

Under these circumstances, businessmen should know "There's no coming back to the well once a project is started," the commissioner said.

The next step for the proposal would be a consultation with Interim Schools Director Roy Dukes, and school board member Mike Keny's discussion with the board, Ledford said.

"They've got to express some interest," he said.

Commissioner Larry McKnight, another member of the committee, was not able to attend last week's committee meeting, but he was aware of the proposal.

Commissioner Rocky Bowden, a retired vice principal, brought the idea of heating with geothermal energy to county leaders' attention, McKnight said.

"Geothermal looks like a win-win," McKnight said.

The Education Committee met with a representative of Capital Project Solutions on July 28 when more information was sought.

Randall Dunn, one of the company's representatives suggested the county permit the business to examine some of the county's buildings and see if they're suitable for a geothermal energy program, Ledford said.

Geothermal is more efficient, isn't as costly to maintain as traditional systems, and there are grants available to help the county convert its buildings to geothermal heating and cooling, Ledford said.

"They looked at all nine schools and they did basic research, more than eyeballing it," he said. "They took measurements and came back to us with their findings.

"Bottom line, all nine schools are candidates" for the program, he said.

"And the grants come with no strings," Ledford said of no obligations required of the county in this proposed project.

Federal grants for this work do not require matching funds," he said. "It's a 100 percent grant."

While the Education Committee didn't vote on anything related to the geothermal proposal, Ledford said, "If there were a vote it would be 3-0. "Mike Keny is to set up work sessions with this company and the board. County commissioners would be invited."

That date had not been set as of Friday afternoon. The board was meeting Monday night.