Energy savings available with no-interest loan

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The school board's maintenance committee wants to know more about financing energy-saving projects for the school buildings with interest-free money from the state.

At their meeting Monday night, Randy Perryman's committee resolved to try and get a presentation from Siemens included on next week's County Commission agenda. Time is of the essence since the deadline for applying for the interest-free loan is Dec. 15.

The School Board is not authorized to go into debt, so the County Commission has to agree if money is to be borrowed for improvements.

It's been almost exactly a year since the School Board agreed to sign a letter of intent with Siemens, telling them to proceed with plans for energy-efficient upgrades to the schools. Progress broke down in the spring, when county commissioners decided they needed to study it further.

"They were favorable, but never made a move to fund it," Perryman remembered. "At one point I thought it was a done deal."

Meanwhile, in August, the maintenance committee heard a presentation from Frank Banks of Ameresco, which offered a similar budget-neutral plan for energy-efficient upgrades, and decided to let Ameresco do a study as well.

Maintenance Supervisor Sheldon Davis reported that, so far, Ameresco's people had talked to him, but the engineers had not performed the energy audit. Schools Director Roy Dukes said he had given permission for Ameresco to see the district's utility bills.

"They keep coming in and talking about doing the energy audit and not doing it," Dukes said.

"Do we get the feeling Ameresco is not very interested?" asked Barbara Kennedy.

"They don't seem very hungry," agreed Donnie Moses.

"With the deadline (for interest-free money) at hand, should we move forward with Siemens?" asked Perryman. "That would mean we are committing ourselves to Siemens," he added.

"I think we already have," Moses said. "How much confidence can you have in Ameresco?"

The committee unanimously approved a motion to get a Siemens presentation put on the county commission's agenda.

"I would apply for the money," urged board attorney Sam Jackson. "Ask for a little bit more."

In other business, the committee talked about the maintenance contract with the county, which will soon be up for renewal. They agreed, with the exception of Curt Denton, that it was a good thing, and recommended renewal.

"It's a win-win situation," Kennedy concluded. "Economically speaking, I don't see why we'd give it up."

"Everybody seems to be pleased," Davis agreed. "The guys are doing a good job."

Davis told the committee he wanted to hire another maintenance man, but Kennedy pointed out this was not really school board business.

"We're not supposed to be involved in hiring and firing," she said, while not disagreeing with the idea of employing an extra man if the contract with the county is extended.