Board of Education gives green light to energy-performance contract

Published Feb 2, 2018 at 4:00pm

The Rome school district is moving forward with an approximately $4.9 million energy-performance contract for Rome Free Academy and Staley Elementary School, including energy-system improvements geared to generate annual cost savings.

District Superintendent Peter C. Blake got a go-ahead from the Board of Education Thursday night to execute the contract involving C&S Companies of Syracuse, after C&S officials reviewed details and answered questions from board members.

A referendum for the project to seek district voters’ approval is to be included with the district’s annual election items on May 15. While the project does not require approval by district voters, said Blake, if voters do approve it the district would receive state financial aid for the project at a 95 percent rate. Without voter approval, the state aid would be at an 85 percent rate.

The project has been projected to generate annual average net benefits of about $247,645; this would be after balancing estimates for energy savings, state financial aid, and a lease payment for the project. C&S officials have estimated the project would “pay for itself” in 18 years, and would have no impact for local taxpayers.

As a preview of the work, C&S Companies will renovate one room at RFA, including lighting system upgrades among the steps, said Blake. It should be finished by late April or early May, and will be available for the community to see the differences prior to the May 15 election, he added.

Voter approvals typically are sought for such projects due to state aid benefits, said Blake. He commented, “hopefully we won’t have a community that wants to be ornery about it.” He called it a “win-win” project.

The project can include improvements for such categories as LED light systems, high-efficiency boilers, the RFA air-conditioning chiller system, the RFA pool heating system, and weatherization and insulation measures.

C&S also had outlined an option for an approximately $3.8 million project that could generate annual average net benefits of about $191,560. Among differences from the $4.9 million project option, which offered higher annual average net benefits, were the number of light fixtures being converted and the amount of weatherization and insulation, plus other factors.

“We will be pursuing the larger project which encompasses more work, mostly insulation at RFA....,” Blake said today. He added “the larger project provided triple the square footage of insulation and sealing of the building.”

Board member Stephen Hampe said in regard to the estimated energy-cost savings as part of the project benefit calculations, “what if energy prices do down?” overall. Jim Olcott of C&S, who was at the board meeting, replied that if energy prices do continue downward, the cost savings would decrease but so would other aspects of the expenses involved. Most likely, he added, energy costs will “start to creep up” again.

Board Vice President Paul Hagerty asked about coordinating the system improvements with existing energy management systems in the school district. Olcutt said the C&S focus would be “very specific,” also noting earlier in the meeting that it would “target some high-improvement areas.”

Board clerk Timothy Safin said to Olcutt, “at the end of the day, you guarantee you’ll save us money. If you don’t, you give us that money.” C&S officials have said that if the energy savings come up short of projections, C&S would send a check to the school district for the difference in the units of energy that are not saved.

Overall project plans will need state Education Department approval. An estimated 30-week approval process was noted by Olcott. Pending state approval, the project work could begin by around June 2019, and much of it would be done during that summer, Olcott said.