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Savings eyed with building upgrades / April 19, 2017
The Mecklenburg County School Board’s energy systems vendor is estimating that Mecklenburg County can save up to $100,000 in fuel and electric bills annually over the next 15 years by upgrading systems at the county’s four elementary schools, enough to recoup the full cost of the project.

Kathy Cox, account representative for Trane, reported to trustees on work that company engineers have been doing since December to lay the groundwork for elementary building upgrades without costing the county any money.

Trustees received the preliminary results of Trane’s energy audit at Monday night’s school board meeting in Boydton.

Trane, a manufacturer of heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems and building management systems and controls, was hired last year by the school board to examine energy costs at the county’s four elementary schools, only one of which — South Hill — was built in the past 20 years.

Trane has performed similar audits and upgrades to school facilities in Lunenburg, Tazewell, and Pittsylvania county schools.

Cox said their recommendations are being made with an eye toward future upgrades and renovations. “We want to make sure the improvements we make will last and provide energy savings moving forward,” she explained.

She estimated it would cost somewhere between $1.2 million to $1.5 million to refurbish and replace existing systems, but the changes should result in $100,000 per year in energy savings over the next 15 years and an additional $5,000 in annual operational savings. Cox said she expects to have a more accurate cost/return estimate by the end of May or beginning of June.

Preliminarily, Trane is recommending a switch to LED lighting at each of the schools, upgrading the water systems by installing aerators for the faucets and low flow toilets, adding weather stripping, caulking or other sealants around windows and doors to eliminate air infiltration, and installing computerized comfort control systems that allow for remote access.

With Direct Digital Control — a web-based program — Maintenance Supervisor Brian Dalton could adjust energy systems at each of the schools from his desk, without ever entering the school buildings, Cox said.

“Our goal is to find the biggest bang for the buck with budget neutrality. The project will be customized and that the upgrades will bring about energy savings for the next fifteen years,” she added.

Trustees are waiting for final cost projections from Trane before deciding whether to move forward with the energy upgrades.

In other business, Dalton sought authorization to issue a request-for-bids for roof repairs to the elementary schools, which other than South Hill Elementary School, are about 20 years old. At present, Dalton said, the roofs are not leaking, but he does not want to wait for them to fail before making upgrades.

Superintendent Paul Nichols explained that the work with Trane as well as Dalton’s five-year plan for building maintenance are all part of his priorities for the school division and part of the discussions he is having with the Board of Supervisors. “We have asked for additional money for maintaining the buildings,” he said. The division is also seeking more funding from the Board of Supervisors to raise the salaries of school employees.

Also on Monday:

» Trustee Wanda Bailey noted that Mecklenburg County Public Schools, like many other divisions around the state, is having issues with unpaid meal balances at the schools — due to students who are not on free lunch plans and who do not pay for their meals.

Now the State Superintendent is calling for a policy to address the problem, and the policy must be in place by July 1, Bailey said she has asked Food Services supervisor Robin Moore, to help develop a policy which Bailey plans to present to the board in May. Bailey is a member of the finance committee.

» Trustee Dale Sturdifen asked to have the “I Am Enough” curriculum reviewed by the school board’s attorney before it is brought before trustees for approval. The I Am Enough curriculum is part of the middle school program of studies. Its primary focus is character development and helping students with bullying and peer pressure.

» Board members approved a new mission statement and motto for the school division.

The MCPS Motto is now C.O.M.P.A.S.S — Committed to Our Mission: Preparing All Students for Success.

The new mission statement is: “The mission of the Mecklenburg County Public School Division, in partnership with family and community, is to provide all students with a quality education within a safe environment supporting the development of intellectual growth, effective communication, wellness, and lifelong learning in a rapidly-changing society.”

» Nichols announced that Personnel Director Nan Alga has set up a special program to recruit new teachers. It will take place May 6 at the school coard central office. “We are doing everything possible to get teachers,” he said.

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