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Published: Saturday, 5/29/2004

Operational hub for TPS proposed

BY SANDRA SVOBODA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Ohio School Facilities Commission is considering a proposal from Toledo Public Schools to create a centralized operation control center for utilities, security, and technology in the new school buildings throughout the city.

"The key thing here is by centralization of service, I think we've already been able to show we can save significant operational dollars," said Dan Burns, the district's chief business manager.

He estimates it would cost about $5 million to construct the center at the former Riverside Hospital site that the district will use as part of the construction project. Each year, the center could save about $1.7 million in operational costs for energy, overtime, maintenance contracts, phones, and computer networks, Mr. Burns said.

But before the central operations center can be designed and built, it needs Ohio School Facilities Commission approval. District officials presented the plan in Columbus this week.

Commission spokesman Rick Savors said the state is considering the "unique" proposal.

"This is something I don't believe we have seen before," he said. "It has sparked some interest. We are examining this."

Commission administrators would review the plan and determine how the proposal could work with commission building rules, which make provisions for utility, security, and technology operations in each design. Creating one center in the district is not allowed under current rules.

"It's something we are looking at because it does have some very new and refreshing ideas behind it," he said. "It's something we want to make sure of before we proceed with it."

Currently, there is minimal district-wide integration of the operations in Toledo Schools. Only some school alarms report into the main security office, phone systems are not well integrated, and information about the systems is not easily obtained, district reports show.

As part of the district's goal to create "green" buildings - environmentally sensitive structures that minimize waste and energy consumption - the central control center could use computer analysis to monitor energy consumption, ensure fresh air is provided, control lighting, and use mechanical systems to maximize comfort in the buildings.

Andrew Hurley, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 349, which represents the district's custodial workers, said he worries that the proposed center would eliminate jobs.

"It's going to mean jobs," he said.

He agreed the proposal could save some operational funds. "We can live with saving the district money if that's the case," he said. "I can see their concerns, but we are dealt shortages in staff, and we are cut, cut, cut."

Mr. Burns said the new buildings, regardless of the central control center, will save some of the $1.1 million the district paid in overtime last year to building operators because of system upgrades and automation.

Quintin Reynolds, president of AFSCME Local 272, which represents skilled trades and building operators, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr. Savors said he did not know when the commission would decide if it would allow the control center.

Contact Sandra Svoboda at:

svoboda@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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