Doubt cast on Siemens program

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Doubts about the Siemens program that would make energy-efficient upgrades to school buildings, and be paid for out of savings in energy costs, were expressed by some school board members at their March meeting last week.

"I was real enthused when I heard they were going to replace the lights," said board member Curt Denton, who explained he lost his enthusiasm when he heard the old lights would be thrown away.

"They have to be worth something," he exclaimed. "Our maintenance department should already be doing this.

"I can't vote for this," Denton concluded, quoting the old saying: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

Randy Perryman, chairman of the school board's maintenance committee, is in favor of the Siemens program as a good opportunity to fund upgrades to the schools and improve the learning environment for Marshall County's children.

"However, there's no point in getting into a lot of detail until we know we have the funding," Perryman said.

Board members Barbara Kennedy and Kristen Gold were also in favor of the Siemens program.

"We're talking a big project," Denton reminded them. "We're paying Siemens seven percent."

"We'll never get them (the commission) to give us the money to do it ourselves," Kennedy pointed out. "Siemens guarantees the savings.

"We need to give him (Kirk Whittington, the Siemens representative who has been working with the school board) the opportunity to sell the whole package to the commission," she continued.

"Yes," agreed board chairman Mike Keny. "We're going to have to sell it."

Perryman's original motion had been to send the Siemens proposal to the County commission for funding. After the discussion, he changed his motion, and the one that was unanimously approved was "to send the proposal to the maintenance committee of the County commission for consideration of funding."

Doubts were also expressed about the bid process for various school system projects.

The board was asked to approve the low bid, one of only two, for replacing the retaining wall at the Cornersville High School baseball field.

The specifications for the project were vague, according to board members, perhaps leading to the 15 percent difference between the two bids.

Fortunately, David Robinson, of David Robinson Concrete, the low bidder, was at the meeting to answer questions. Robinson said he was experienced in wall building, having just completed 1,000 feet of five-foot wall for the Allen Dairy.

In response to board members, Robinson assured them the wall would be correctly reinforced, and would have "weep holes" to let out the moisture accumulating in the dirt behind it. He said building the wall would take 10 working days, or two weeks, but his company would make every effort to keep the site safe for the students.

"This discussion clearly illustrated how we need to refine the bid process," said board member Craig Michael, as the board voted 8-1 to approve Robinson's $19,800 bid. (The "no" vote came from Harvey Jones, who had questioned Robinson about the length of time he could guarantee the wall would stay standing.)