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SCC studies energy savings idea

It's not hard to see that school buildings need a lot of energy to run. There are computers, lights, heat and ventilation throughout the buildings.

At Monday night's St. Croix Central School Board meeting, it was reported that the district spends an estimated $341,816 on energy.

That amount could be decreased though, said Tad Beeksma, a representative from CESA 10 Energy Management Services.

According to their Web site, Focus on Energy is a state-wide program started in 2001. The program is designed to encourage energy efficiency and use of renewable energy, enhance the environment and ensure the future supply of energy for Wisconsin.

The program has been so successful in CESA 10, based in Chippewa Falls, that it's now expanding into neighboring districts.

Beeksma explained to the board that each program is tailored to the school.

"It's been adapting and changing through the years," he said.

Three areas he would look at and work closely with are human behavior, optimizing equipment and assisting with the purchase of new equipment.

"You've done a great job with equipment. The next level is human behavior and optimization," Beeksma told the board.

He will talk to the staff about ways they can save energy, and show them the numerical impact of changing their ways, he said.

"We don't sacrifice the learning environment," he assured. "There won't be any lights off and the heat won't get turned down" when kids are in the building.

Optimizing equipment is a key area for SCC, said Beeksma.

Currently, Johnson Controls routinely checks over the equipment to be sure it's functioning. Focus on Energy will make sure the equipment is running as efficiently as possible.

"The difference is responding to the problem (with Johnson Controls) versus running at an optimal level (with Focus on Energy)," summarized Director David Olsen.

Head Custodian Greg Green said he supports hiring the company, stating that they'll help him maximize settings. For example, they can set switches for day and night, week day or weekends.

Green added that some new equipment will need to be purchased in the near future, since one system is still using DOS. Focus on Energy will help him fine-turn and program the new equipment from the start.

District Administrator David Bradley said he's a big proponent of energy savings.

"We as a district need to do something," Bradley said. "I don't have time to do it, Greg doesn't have time to do it. Nobody has time to do it."

To calculate a cost for hiring Focus on Energy, Beeksma said they find a baseline energy cost from a past year. The amount of money saved each year after their changes are implemented is weighed against the baseline number. The district gets about half of the savings while Focus on Energy takes about half for their payment.

Any cost savings from new equipment or other major modifiers will be subtracted from the baseline energy cost, said Beeksma.

Costs to the district are kept low while still keeping CESA 10 in business, Beeksma said.

"Remember, this is money that you are now sending to the utility," Beeksma said. "If CESA 10 doesn't save you anything, you don't pay anything."

Beeksma said on average, Focus on Energy is able to save districts an estimated 20 percent over a three-year cycle. For Central, that would mean about $250,000 over six years, Beeksma said.

All schools that have gone through the original three-year cycle have signed on with Focus on Energy for longer contracts, Beeksma said. After three years, they'll help with maintenance and other energy saving practices. Charges will be calculated by the square foot, rather than a percentage of energy savings.

The board wasn't asked to sign a contract or take any action on the proposal at Monday's meeting.

"I want you to understand the program first," Beeksma said.

At next month's meeting, Beeksma said he'll cover more details of the program and the contract.

In other news:

  • The board denied Rita Wittmer's petition to detach her property on County Road N from the River Falls School District and attach it to St. Croix Central School District. River Falls had already denied her claim.

Wittmer said she currently doesn't have any children in school, but has a 4-year-old who may be in kindergarten next year. She said she applied for open enrollment, but getting her child to school would be hard because of her job. Open enrollment requires parents to transport their kids to a bus stop or school building themselves.

Board members said they didn't like adding extra time to the middle of a bus route. The youngest person along that route is currently a junior in high school and drives herself to school.

Other board members said they didn't like creating an island in the River Falls School District.

The board unanimously denied Wittmer's petition, but stated that if the situation changes, like more kids living on the route, Wittmer should come back before the board.

  • The board approved a new Web page hosting agreement with CMS4Schools, contingent on when the contract with Edline ends.
  • Resignations were approved for Arlyss Wilcoxson, first grade; Lindy Johnson, high school science; Dave Larson, high school band; and Dick Klanderman, director of student services.
  • Contracts were approved for Ryan Berg, assistant track coach; and Logan Kimberly, C-team boys baseball coach.