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Energy-saving proposal presented to board

Are Halifax County Public Schools energy efficient?

Director of Operations and Maintenance Larry Roller is looking for a way to make that happen and to save the schools money.

Halifax County School Board members heard a presentation Monday from Roller regarding the energy efficiency of school facilities during a work session in the school board conference room.

Roller presented several options to board members, but no decisions were made Monday.

Roller presented Cenergistic, an energy savings program that was established in 1986.

“They’re all about people, not equipment,” said Roller.

However, he was quick to add he was not promoting the program, only presenting details for their staff.

The program would provide  staff to come in and perform and achieve goals of energy conservation providing a savings to the school system.

According to Roller, a contract with Cenergistic runs for four years, and a gross savings for the first year is $282,000 with the estimated salary for hiring a energy specialist at $55,000 plus, $3,000 estimated travel in training, $6,650 in energy accounting software and $122,400 in Cenergistic energy management program with a total projects investment of $187,050. 

The total net savings to the school system would be $94,950 with a return annual investment of 51 percent.

However, some board members were skeptical of the program.

“I spoke with a previous school board member, and I’d like to know why was it discontinued if it was a money saver?” questioned ED-6 trustee Fay Satterfield.

ED-8 trustee Walter Potts agreed there were too many what ifs with the program.

Board Chairman Kimberly Farson assured board members Roller was only bringing information to them because he understands the money involved in hiring an energy specialist.

However, Roller told board members he did have an alternative to present.

Roller suggested saving money by hiring an energy manager through the school system with a base salary of around $40,000 plus benefits.

Roller said the school system spends approximately $3,726 a week on unoccupied schools, costing nearly $200,000 a year.

“Whatever the board prefers us to do,” said Roller.

“We cut a position from the maintenance department this year,” said ED-5 trustee Roger Long who said he understood Roller was trying to find ways to replace those duties.

Roller said the person in the position he was speaking of was getting ready to retire, and he wanted to make that position more of an energy manager. He didn’t want that person in “his face” or his office, but more or less out on the job looking at the energy efficiency of the schools.

“I would make that position more of an energy manager. I want you out in the schools and checking those things,” said Roller.

Roller suggested board members hire someone with HVAC experience, communication skills and someone able to inspect the schools during shut down. He added the maintenance department already does an excellent job on HVAC and refrigeration, but it needs to improve on identifying energy loss and inspecting energy loss.

“We need manpower,” said Roller.

ED-1 trustee Phyllis Smith asked Roller if he had the choice of hiring someone or hiring a company, which would he suggest.

Roller said he believed “we could move forward” in the direction and save money if the system hired an energy manager rather than hiring a company.

“We could get by hiring someone with experience for $40,000 plus benefits,” said Roller. 

In closing, Roller also gave a short presentation on another energy program and suggested the possibility of charging school use fees per existing policy.

Currently, the school system charges a faciliites’ rental fee for organizations including churches, living arts for students, agricultural groups, dance schools or special events, meetings or activities designed to benefit the community at large or sponsoring organizations.

“It’s a lot of building use that we’re footing the bill for,” said Roller. “And it would be nice to recoup some of that expense.” 

Farson told board members that Monday’s discussion was for informative purposes only, and the board asked Roller to bring back more information at the next school board meeting.