School board to proceed with $9 million project

On Tuesday night, the Williamsport Area School Board voted to give a “notice to proceed” with a $9,081,449 project to revamp the heating and cooling systems at Stevens Elementary and Curtin Middle schools.

Shayne Homan, director of energy services for McClure Energy Solutions, a subsidiary of PPL, presented the results of a facility improvements study to the board.

Homan said that the Stevens and Curtin are “equally in bad of shape and both have exceeded their life expectancy.

“Stevens is 30 years old and no central cooling is available. The heating plan is oil-fired out there, and you’re spending a lot of money on that. There’s no good way to bring ventilation up to speed without replacing the system.”

At Curtin, Homan said the air leaks within the heating and cooling system “wreak havoc on system performance.”

Homan said the district currently spends about $1.1 million per year on electric, gas and oil at the two schools. The projected savings from the improvements, which include installing control interfaces in both schools, converting Stevens to natural gas heat, replacing the lighting systems and fully cooling both buildings, will be in the range of $350,000 to $400,000 per year, Homan said.

“No solar is involved, no high-level green technology that doesn’t have a quick payback,” Homan said.

Replacing the two HVAC systems and control systems will cost $6.62 million. Doing lighting upgrades, insulation replacement and other improvements will cost about $2.5 million.

The projected savings over 20 years will total about $9.5 million, according to the study.

The board will decide on exactly how it will finance the project at its next meeting. The options, in short, are paying more principal in early years, with a more aggressive payment schedule, or pushing off payments to the end of a 15- or 20-year payment schedule.

“It seems the effect on the annual budget and on millage would be zero,” board member David Stone Jr. said, after reviewing payment options presented by Jamie Doyle, financial adviser.

“Exactly. It’s zero,” Doyle responded. “Just because your debt is declining on its own. Some of those freed up mills are going to go to the new project. I avoided putting the energy savings down.”

Before the board spent an hour and a half reviewing the heating and cooling project, Jeff Angstadt gave a report on the summer construction project.

While Williamsport middle and high schools will be ready for the first day of classes on Monday, high school students may have to bring their lunches for the first few days.

“The two cafeterias are ready, the two kitchens are coming down to the wire,” Angstadt reported to the board. “If we find a glitch in any of the equipment we’ll look at doing a brown bag lunch or bringing food in.”

An issue with the dishwasher required parts to be ordered, and a planned health inspection was pushed back to Thursday, Angstadt said. “Everything should go well with the middle school itself. The coolers are up and running, and the equipment’s been tested and is operational.”

Another issue, within the old Roosevelt building, has cropped up with emergency communications.

“We had a walk-through with the fire deptartment and city inspector, and the fire department communications, their walkie-talkies do not work in the building,” Angstadt said.

The district will provide its own walkie-talkies to the fire department for open houses today and Thursday, and figure out a more permanent solution by the end of the week.