The Daily Press

Capital improvemen­t projects at over $1 million approved by school board

- By Amy Cherry Staff Writer

ST. MARYS - Two St. Marys Area School District elementary schools will receive upgrades as part of an upcoming capital improvemen­t project.

The upgrades total just over $1.1 million and include LED lighting and central heating plant and controls at Fox Township Elementary, LED lighting at South St. Marys Street Elementary, and a wood shop dust collector system at St. Marys Area High School. The projects were unanimousl­y approved by the SMASD Board of School Directors during their Monday evening meeting as part the Guaranteed Energy Savings Contract with McClure Company.

“It’s important for the public to understand that over the years there has been money put aside for capital improvemen­ts, so this was money designated specifical­ly for this purpose and we need to start to looking very strategica­lly at where we invest those dollars to get the greatest return over a multi-year phased project as we try to address a number of our facilities and financial needs,” said SMASD Superinten­dent Harley Ramsey. “These energy savings projects are a great way to kind of whittle away at those facilities needs and get the greatest return on those dollars.”

Ramsey explained the cost breakdown and savings of each project during a recent school board workshop.

Fox Twp. lighting cost is $80,000 with a 20-year savings of $100,000. Ramsey said with a lighting project is where they will see really big gains as savings exceed the project costs. New lighting at South will cost $148,000 with a 20year savings return of $183,000.

“When we look at the age of Fox Twp. Elementary and the central plant, which is the central heating system and controls, we really think it necessary to move forward with an upgrade to the central plant,” Ramsey said.

The Fox Twp. central plant project cost is $664,000 with a 20-year savings of $114,000.

The high school will be receiving a new wood shop dust collector system at a cost of $200,000. This is a new item recently brought to the district’s attention following an insurance audit of building. The current dust collector system is outdated and does not meet current safety requiremen­ts. Ramsey added he feels the dust collector is more of a high priority due to the high safety need. In addition it can only be used on four of the six pieces of wood shop equipment.

The elementary school upgrades fall under the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA) meant to help decrease growing utility costs by enabling upgrades to building components such as lighting, mechanical and plumbing to be performed through a budget neutral process. As part of this process school districts can avoid the separate project bidding process. In the case at SMASD, earlier this year they advertised for Requests for Qualificat­ions (RFQ) and received several responses from which they chose the McClure Company to conduct the energy audit and as the preferred project vendor.

Ramsey emphasized project are funded through the school district capital improvemen­t fund which is designated for such projects. Previously the district set aside about $3.3 million for the fund with plans to allot around $1.5 million for projects this year and next year.

“This is a way to get our facilities back on track,” Ramsey said.

He added that cur

rently without even digging deep the school district stands at $11-12M in facility improvemen­ts which they really need to be looking at. Ramsey stated he is watching closely that every time the school district free up funds in their capital improvemen­t space that they are going to keep adding projects in order to accelerate facility improvemen­ts as quickly as possible.

Emergency generator upgrades for both elementary schools were also discussed as a potential project, however both of these are very costly items. Another high priority project is the central plant upgrade at South at cost of $680,000. Also at the top of the project list is a new high school outdoor ramp project, which acts as an entrance to the school from the parking lot area. Ramsey said very preliminar­y project costs are $300,000 to $500,000.

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