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Published: Wednesday, 10/19/2011

Energy-efficiency proposals offered to school officials

BY GABRIELLE RUSSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ROSSFORD -- For years, the lingering problem for Rossford school officials has been finding the money to improve its aging buildings.

Last week, the school board considered a new possibility -- investing in energy upgrades to cut utility bills and operating costs.

Those upgrades could range from more environmentally friendly boilers to new roofs or doors to keep warm air from escaping through windows, said Martin Miller, an account executive at Energy Systems Group.

"It's really up to the school board to decide what fits your needs," he said to the group of about 15 during an informal presentation last Wednesday at the Rossford Public Library.

Rossford Exempted Village Schools could take out a loan and retire the debt within 15 years through House Bill 264, a law aimed at helping schools pay for energy improvements. The upgrades would pay for themselves through savings on utility bills and operating costs, Mr. Miller said.

ESG, a Newburgh, Ind., company, has worked with municipalities and school districts to help them become more energy efficient.

Those projects ranged from $1 million to $25 million in scope, with ESG including its project manager fees in the final price, Mr. Miller said.

For school officials, H.B. 264 means being able to borrow money without going before the voters. In a heated election last year, voters rejected a bond levy to rebuild a new high school and middle school.

The energy improvements would take six months to a year to complete, so the district would start saving on energy bills sooner than if it underwent a major construction project to build a new school, Mr. Miller said.

"When you construct a new building it could be years -- literally, years," he said.

But several community residents and school board members said it was important that the energy investments fit into the district's master plan for its buildings, especially as the schools' foundations keep aging.

"We're looking at which buildings should be kept, which buildings should be preserved and renovated, whether to consolidate grades," said Roger Gluckin, who was on a campaign coalition against the levy last year and is now on the school committee working toward developing a facilities master plan.

"This is an important piece of it, but there are other pieces that will hopefully all come together at the same time."

School board President Ken Sutter, who was at the meeting, said he will present to the board what he learned.

But he agreed with Mr. Gluckin that whether the board decides to move forward with ESG or another company, it needs a holistic plan for improving the district's buildings.

Contact Gabrielle Russon at: grusson@theblade.com or 419-724-6026.



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