ELSB takes first steps towards energy savings

BY JEFF HORVATH

The Elk Lake School Board voted Thursday to take the first steps on a project that should save the school both energy and money over the long run.

The multi-stage process, which would switch Elk Lake’s energy systems to natural gas, involves making infrastructural changes to the school buildings and creating a line by which natural gas could be transported to the school.

The project is related to Pennsylvania Act 39 or the “Guaranteed Energy Savings Act,” where an Energy Service Company is chosen to enact energy efficient changes.

In the case of Elk Lake, the changes would involve a conversion to natural gas as an energy source. The project must pay for itself, meaning that the savings achieved over a given period from reduced utility bills must exceed that cost of implementing the change.

Nick Sracic of Johnson Controls was on hand to field questions regarding the project. Sracic outlined the steps that needed to be taken for the project to get off the ground.

First, the school board would have to decide whether to pursue a Request for Qualifications or a Request for Proposal.

Essentially, by issuing an RFQ the board would receive a list of companies and a history of the projects those companies have done (their qualifications). At that point the Board would vote to select a company for the construction.

An RFP, on the other hand, is basically a request for an engineering proposal. With an RFP the board would select a third party consultant who would help advertise for proposals from different companies. After reviewing the different proposals, the Board would then choose a company for the construction.

According to Sracic, “the benefit of the RFP is that the Board would see the numbers for several different proposals, but the third party would take between 3 percent and 7 percent of the contract value and it would take about 7 months to get the same point as with the RFQ.”

That “same point” refers to picking an Energy Service Company.

Sracic continued by saying that “most districts chose to go with the RFQ.”

Elk Lake would need to get the natural gas from “Leatherstocking Gas Company,” which will require installation of a pipeline that would bring the gas to the school.

At this point there has been no contractual agreement between the two parties to ensure that the gas will be delivered.

Sracic advised the board “not to go through with an RFP until they are sure the natural gas is coming.”

After Sracic was done speaking, board member Anne Teel asked the other board members if they felt comfortable voting on this first step of the process, to which they all agreed that they did.

Teel then motioned “to advertise for an RFQ” and the motion was seconded by Harold Bender. The board voted unanimously to advertise for the RFQ and the motion passed.

The RFQ is expected to be in the hands of the board by September.

Its next step will be selecting and approving an Energy Service Company.

Johnson Controls issued a preliminary report earlier this year estimating that the total project will cost around $3.7 million, though the energy savings that come as a result of the project should exceed that amount in the long run.

In budget news, the Board approved $67,521 for Triguard for added security, such as new cameras and doors. The board also voted unanimously to pay the bills, which totaled $637,778 last month.

The board recognized the volunteer work of eleventh grader Megyn Stevens, who planted flowers in front of the school and plans to paint the dugouts.
The board also accepted with regret the resignations of teachers Victoria Larue and Wendy Fisher.

Superintendent Bill Bush said that the district would look to fill those now vacant positions internally.