WCS board reverses course on energy project

WARRENSBURG - After hearing a variety of concerns from the public Nov. 22, the Warrensburg School Board reversed its decision to move forward with a $1.3 million energy conservation project it had approved just two weeks earlier.

The project, promoted by state agencies, called for installing new energy management systems at its elementary and high schools. The installations were expected to maximize the efficiency of the buildings' heating, lighting and ventilation systems. The upgrades were expected to save the school district at least $83,000 per year in utility expenses at present day costs.

But local residents questioned whether the savings plus state aid rebates would fully offset the $157,000 annual cost of the loan from the state Power Authority to fund the project. They voiced concerns of whether a projected $120,000 annual rebate in state aid for the upgrades would indeed be in existence for the 10-year life of the loan.

Area developer and Warrensburg resident Richard Emerson said equipment installed in the project might last only a fraction of the loan payback period. He said the proposed air exchangers called for in the project are more likely to last three years and not the life of the loan, 10 years.

Others have cited that the prior electronic energy management system, installed not too many years ago at a considerable cost, was to be replaced in this project - an indication of how quickly supposed high-technology equipment becomes obsolete.

Resident and former school board president Thomas Yarmowich commented that district officials should consider accomplishing the upgrades small steps at a time, after they were proven cost-effective.

"It's a high-risk deal," he said.

Several local businessmen also called for the school board to conduct more research on this project.

School board member Linda Baker-Marcella raised many questions, including the projected interest rates, and whether other school districts participating in the program actually achieved their energy-savings goals cited by state agencies.

The vote was 4-2 to rescind the decision to launch the project. Voting against rescinding the project approval were Dean Moore and Laura Danna, who said it made sense to pursue the state aid to pay for a project that had to be undertaken anyway.

The questions raised by Baker-Marcella, the public, and other board members were referred to Superintendent of Schools Tim Lawson, who said he'd research answers and present his findings in several months.

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