The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

October 3, 2012

Energy program pays off for BOE

By C.V. Moore
Register-Herald Reporter

— An interim report shows that Fayette County Schools has saved approximately $600,000 and achieved a 36 percent reduction in energy usage due to a new energy management program.

Jeff Brown of Omega Facility Services, Solutions, and Surety addressed the Fayette County Board of Education at its Monday evening meeting about the results of the program 9 months into its 15-year term.

“We’re encouraged and pleased by the support and cooperation of staff in the facilities,” says Brown, whose company manages the program and guarantees the savings through a surety bond.

“We have a long way to go. There are a lot of options that remain out there, but 9 months into the program we feel the state of the program is healthy.”

The county’s finance director, Paula Fridley, confirmed the numbers are in line with the utility savings she has seen in her budget.

Board member David Arritt, who has consistently expressed reservations about the program,

again voiced his skepticism on Monday.

“I hope we’re getting those savings,” he says. “I’m not 100 percent sure, but I guess I’m still a little suspicious about it.”

The program is designed to finance $8 million in energy system upgrades and new HVAC equipment for the county’s aging schools through guaranteed energy savings over 15 years.

It also reduces energy waste, provides a healthier learning environment, and addresses the rising cost of energy in school facilities, says Brown.

He says 4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, 97 tons of coal, 9,000 gallons of propane, and 2.8 million gallons of water have been saved to date.

Programmable thermostats and lighting upgrades are complete in all schools. Energy management system controls and HVAC equipment has been installed at seven schools. Most schools have also been with upgraded to low-flow plumbing fixtures.

“Energy report cards” are provided on a quarterly basis to principals to show how effectively their schools are meeting their individual goals.

Site inspections, energy audits, staff training, real-time energy metering, and board reports are also a part of the program.

The “cost(s) of doing nothing,” says Brown, are emergency and catastrophic equipment failures, of which he provided a list to board members.

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Fridley also provided the board with a financial report on Monday.

After balancing the budget and paying $386,000 for a Valley High School improvement project that went over budget, the remaining balance in Fayette County’s general fund is $2.6 million.

The WV Department of Education’s Office of School Finance recommends maintaining a 3 to 5 percent contingency fund, according to Fridley.

“We’re hitting right around 3.5 to 4 percent of our budget,” she says.

Last year’s carry-over balance was $3.6 million.

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Superintendent Keith Butcher and Director of Secondary Education Anna Kincaid-Cline provided the board with information regarding the county’s offering of Advanced Placement courses, and students’ performance on the tests.

“We’re not where we want to be with this AP program county-wide. We have a lot of work to do,” says Kincaid-Cline.

That includes enrolling more students in the classes and making sure more pass the AP exam at the end of the year.

All high schools must offer an AP class in each area of reading, math, science, and social studies. Kincaid-Cline says the county’s high schools each offer 5 to 10 of the courses.

At Midland Trail High School, she says the classes are offered but not a single student opted to take an AP course.

Fayetteville High School has not traditionally had a strong AP program. The school did not have anyone who scored a 3 or higher on an AP test, which is the passing score.

“It has taken us a little while to shift things and offer more AP there,” says Kincaid-Cline. But she says Fayetteville and other schools are “making an attempt to make some changes.”

At Oak Hill High School, 100 percent of students in Vicky Lickliter’s AP chemistry class passed the exam. Her mean score last year was higher than that of both the state and the nation.

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During board member reports on Monday, Leon Ivey expressed concern over school lunches.

He shared a photo of a “pink” hamburger reportedly served at a Fayette County school with other board members. He says both the health department and Fayette County Schools food director David Seay looked at the photo and said it was OK.

“There’s some kind of problem,” says Ivey. “We hear it everywhere. Somebody’s got to start making some common-sense decisions...Seay’s hands are tied with what he can serve and what he can provide.”

He offered to draft a letter to send to the federal government saying there “needs to be some common sense in our food program” or sit down for a work session with Seay to talk about what he deals with on a national level.

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Finally, Superintendent Butcher recognized Fuzz Syner for his “hard work and dedication to the students of Midland Trail High School” at Monday’s meeting.

Syner, a retiree, volunteers his time at Midland Trail High School. He was instrumental in loading and hauling four sets of bleachers to Midland Trail from Nuttall Middle School after it closed.

—E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com