Steamboat Springs School District weighs plan to improve energy efficiency of its campuses | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs School District weighs plan to improve energy efficiency of its campuses

Annual energy costs by building

Steamboat Springs High School: $261,449

Steamboat Springs Middle School: $136,903

Strawberry Park Elementary School: $86,584

Soda Creek Elementary School: $81,455

Human Resources Center: $76,370

Bus barn: $13,833

Total: $656,595

Superintendent review

The Steamboat Springs School Board on Monday night concluded its meeting by conducting Superintendent Brad Meeks’ year-end performance review in executive session. Board President Brian Kelly said after the review the board is “very much leaning” toward offering Meeks a contract extension.

Meeks, who in 2011 came to Steamboat from Farmington Area Public Schools in Minnesota, is finishing his second year with the district.

— The Steamboat Springs School District is looking into making some significant capital upgrades to its school buildings that could save millions of dollars in utility costs over the next 15 years.

An energy services company told the district Monday night that by using a system called energy performance contracting, it could pay for capital projects that improve the energy efficiency of its buildings with the savings the projects generate.

Superintendent Brad Meeks recommended that the board approve spending about $8,000 to have Navitas, a Kansas-based company that specializes in energy performance contracting, better study the potential upgrades and come back with a plan to consider.

The company already has spent some time analyzing the district’s four campuses and its central office along with three years' worth of utility data.

"I think the potential payoff is great and obviously it helps us save energy and provide some capital infusion," Meeks said.

The board voted unanimously to allow Navitas’ study of its buildings and the potential efficiency upgrades to continue.

Koby Kampschroeder, a representative with Navitas, told the board his initial study of the district projects it could generate nearly $4 million in energy savings in 15 years by investing $3 million in capital projects that would range from replacing old boilers and windows to installing motion light sensors in some school buildings.

He said the projection anticipates a 3 percent annual increase in utility costs for the district.

The company would guarantee an amount of energy savings but not a drop in the cost of utilities that are dependent on the rates.

His review of the schools found multiple opportunities for cost savings at each campus.

Finance Director Dale Mellor said there may be no better time, economically speaking, to embark on the projects.

He added the district has been approached by Wells Fargo Bank to participate in a lease purchase program that could be used to fund the improvements.

Mellor and School Board members advocated against funding any of the projects with a bond referendum.

"I don’t think the economic times get any better to do a project like this because of the low interest (rates) and a lot of people are looking for work," Mellor said. "I think we could get a competitive bid."

The district currently spends more than $600,000 annually in utility costs, and ot puts on a contest each year to see which building can save the most energy.

Soda Creek this year won the challenge when it reduced its energy usage by more than 14 percent and saved nearly $1,400 compared with 2012.

Budget approved

Near the end of the Monday meeting, the School Board voted, 4-1, to approve the district’s 2013-14 budget.

The only disagreement about the budget proposal came when board member Rebecca Williams questioned why the district was eliminating one half of a counseling position at Steamboat Springs High School.

Williams voted against the approved budget.

Her concern was shared by a district counselor who asked the board to spare the department from the cut.

Meeks said the district feels "there still will be adequate counseling support at the high school with this minor reduction."

The approved budget does not include any major program cuts, and includes more state revenue for the first time in five years, according to district officials.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com