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Geneva schools look to decrease energy costs

The Geneva City School District this week took the first step to create what would be decades of saving energy and money. On Monday night (Dec. 8), the Board of Education voted unanimously to have the district enter into an Energy Performance Contract. The district plans to seek the agreement with an energy contractor to make improvements and changes in operations to help reduce energy costs in the future. Superintendent Dr. Robert Young said the contract is designed to lower the cost of energy consumption in the school district and called it a unique opportunity to maximize our community’s resources. Lauren Poehlman, the district’s assistant superintendent for business services, said the contract will be “a win-win for everybody.”According to the latest projections, the energy project will cost $1.4 million, will be eligible for 98 percent building aid on the construction aspect of the Energy Performance Contract and will also provide for additional energy savings of $124,887 per year, said Young. That means that in addition to state building aid to pay for the project itself, there will be annual energy savings to district taxpayers, as well. The energy savings also will offset future costs of operating the school district, he said. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will oversee the contract, making sure that engineering plans and projections are correct and insuring that contractors guarantee the savings written into the contract, said Tod Mervis, director of the school district¹s Buildings and Grounds Department. Mervis said the length of the Energy Performance Contract could be as long as 15 years because the payback period would differ for individual school buildings. The district includes the high school, a middle school and two elementary schools. The Ithaca-based Tetra Tech Architects & Engineers (formerly The Thomas Group) coordinated the effort to secure a NYSERDA grant to pay for an audit of the district¹s buildings to help determine what energy-saving improvements could be made. Some of the district¹s energy work is already planned, such as replacement of the roofs and boilers at North Street and West Street elementary schools, which is to be done through an EXCEL project, approved by the voters on Sept. 16. EXCEL, a state building aid program, stands for Expanding our Children¹s Education and Learning. Other projects will be done separately, Mervis said, such as replacing motors in the high school¹s air handling system with new, high-efficiency motors, replacement of lighting controls and fixtures in all district schools and weatherization and insulation work in all buildings. He said the district would have computerized climate controls, with varied energy use linked to the hour and occupancy of the buildings. The district¹s energy audit included taking infrared photographs to determine where energy was being lost in buildings. Young said the district will start seeking an energy service contractor this month and hopes to choose one by February. After that, specifications for the work will be prepared and sent to the state Education Department for approval. When approval is received, the project can be put out to bid. The district hopes to do some work late next year and take on larger projects such as the boilers in 2010, he said.

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