By Michael Turton
Several years of deliberations by the Haldane Central School District regarding the best way to solve its energy and heating needs may finally be at an end. At its Sept. 7 meeting, school board trustees unanimously approved entering into a $2,264,900 Energy Performance Contract with ConEdison Solutions.
The project will include extensive upgrades to the schools’ energy and heating infrastructure including replacement of three aging boilers and some 1,900 light fixtures. If the Energy Performance Contract works as planned, residents will see no tax increase. Instead, the District will use the energy savings guaranteed by ConEdison Solutions to pay off the project cost over a fifteen year period. If annual energy savings are less than $135,931, the contract requires ConEdison Solutions to pay the difference. The District will use an outside firm to audit and verify project details.
Although it is not legally required to do so, the District will seek voter approval of the project in a public referendum to be held on October 26, 2010. “We wouldn’t undertake a project like this without a referendum. I want the public to support this” said School Board president Dave Merandy. A favorable public vote also ensures that the project will receive the maximum in state aid estimated at $994,000.
Merandy was effusive in his support for the project. “We have gone through every possible scenario and we have to go ahead. We did our due diligence. I’m totally for it and I’m totally confident this will work.” One by one, each of the four other trustees also spoke in favor of the project before responding “aye’ to the roll call vote. No one in attendance spoke against.
Peter Henderson served on the subcommittee that looked into a number of various options for upgrading the heating system in 2007. He attended the Sept. 7 meeting and after the presentation said that in October he will vote to support the project. “The net cost to the district is about $1.3 million, of which about $1 million is for heating-related components. For this $1 million expenditure, Con Ed is guaranteeing the school will cut its oil use by 45 percent campus wide, which is amazing. That’s why I’ll be supporting the project” Henderson said.
Philipstown resident Kim Conner had one cautionary note. “It is really important to make clear to the public that there is not a fixed cost for fuel. You need to be really clear…” she said. The project is intended to make the buildings more energy efficient but the contract does not guarantee fuel costs won’t increase.
Even if voters approve the project in October there will likely be at least some nail biting between now and next spring. That’s when ConEdison Solutions estimates the new boilers will be installed. “One of the [existing] boilers is being repaired now— and that’s the good one” said Haldane’s Director of Facilities Wayne Robinson. Trustees and administrators have long feared that the old boilers could breakdown completely. At this stage of their service life that would mean either very costly repairs or equally costly rental of temporary replacements boilers.
A detailed outline of the proposed Energy performance Contract is available on the Haldane website.
In other business Superintendent Mark Villanti announced that elementary and middle school Principal Maggie Davis will be honored by the Mid Hudson School Study Council at their October 14 awards dinner. Davis will receive the “Excellence in Administration” award.
Villanti reported that there have been no new developments in the Highland Valley mobile home park proposed for Route 9 and that lawyers for the developer and the school district are continuing negotiations.
Julia Famularo was appointed as Haldane’s Claims Auditor, replacing Geraldine Kurdziel who held the position for fifteen years. The Claims Auditor reports directly to the school board on a quarterly basis.
Acumen Partners recently completed a Revenue and Accounts Receivable Internal Audit Report and identified no major areas of concern. Acumen Partners has worked for the district for five years and audit committee chair Mike LaRocca suggested that a request for proposals be prepared in January to consider hiring a new auditing firm in the spring 2011. Although it is unlikely that Acumen Partners will be rehired, they will be able to submit a proposal. Trustees seemed to agree with Mark Villanti who said, “It’s not a bad thing to have a fresh set of eyes every five years or so.”
Trustees approved recognition of the second week of September as Art in Education Week and announced that the annual retreat for school board trustees will be held on Sunday, September 19.