The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 22, 2013

Energy program saves Conneaut schools thousands of dollars

Staff Writer

CONNEAUT — Energy upgrades installed at Conneaut Area City School district buildings already is paying big dividends, Board of Education members learned at Wednesday night’s meeting.

A first-year audit shows the district saved $58,000 more in utility bills than originally estimated, said Cris Newcomb, school board president. Brewer-Garrett, the mechanical engineering firm that installed energy improvements in 2010 and 2011 at district-owned buildings. This past summer, natural gas-fired boilers replaced electrical versions at Conneaut Middle School.

The contractor guaranteed savings in utility bills of nearly $118,000 each year for 15 years. The initial audit revealed savings that approach $176,000 in the first “performance year,” Newcomb said.

In 2010, the school board — taking advantage of a government incentive program — borrowed $1.9 million for the energy makeover. Savings gleaned from the retrofit would pay off the loan in no more than 15 years, the contractor said. New heating units and lights were among the improvements.

The middle school was not a part of the original plan because at the time the school was tethered to a wind turbine erected at no cost to the district at the start of 2010. The turbine is broken and won’t be fixed until a lawsuit working its way through the court system is completed.

Elsewhere, the board heard that the Ohio High School Athletic Association is modifying scholastic requirements to participate in extracurriculars like sports. Previously, students needed a 1.5 grade point average to be eligible, said Kent Houston, Conneaut Area City Schools superintendent. OHSAA now says students only need to pass five credit-earning courses to qualify, he said.

The Conneaut school board may choose to retain the grade point average requirement, Houston said.