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South Hills

West Jefferson Hills energy savings plan expected to eventually pay for itself

| Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, 3:48 p.m.

An energy savings plan will allow West Jefferson Hills School District to air condition Jefferson Intermediate and add LED lighting and water efficiency measures to three of its schools — all while getting money back on the project within 20 years, district leaders said.

Board members last month approved a contract with Trane U.S. Inc. for the upgrades.

The project is being done through the state’s Act 39 and the U.S. Communities Cooperative Purchasing Program.

A study was completed of Jefferson Intermediate, McClellan Elementary and Pleasant Hills Middle School to outline options for energy saving measures. Initially, plans had been to upgrade the heating and cooling systems at all three schools. However, the price tag came in higher than expected.

“Essentially what we went with was the least expensive option,” Superintendent Michael Ghilani said.

The district already is in the midst of building a $95 million new high school and in the initial phase of renovations to add 10 classrooms and update the parking lot at Gill Hall Elementary.

“We just feel with finishing the high school project up (and) beginning the additional project at Gill Hall, the financial commitment of doing every building right now was not the sensible thing to do from a financial standpoint,” Ghilani said.

The project is expected to net a savings — due to reduced energy expenses — of $780,000 in 20 years.

The district is fronting the $2.9 million cost for the project. However, Trane guarantees the district will recoup that money, plus the extra $780,000, in savings over the next 20 years. If that doesn’t occur, the company pays the difference.

“With the HVAC upgrades and being able to control the temperatures, there’s a positive net,” Ghilani said.

West Jefferson Hills will use money from its fund balance for the project. Some districts borrow money for these type of projects, Ghilani said, but because the district has the money in its reserve, it makes sense to use now. It also allows for additional savings, because there are no finance charges, he said.

The project now includes upgrading the heating and cooling system at Jefferson only, which will include air conditioning to the entire building and new controls. Only part of the building was previously air conditioned.

LED lighting will be added to all three buildings, from the classrooms to the outside, Ghilani said. Ceiling tiles also will be replaced in the buildings.

Water efficiency measures, such as fixing seals on toilets, also will be taken.

The project is under way and scheduled to be finished within the first few weeks of school starting.

The heating and cooling system at McClellan also will be updated during the Gill Hall renovation project, which is scheduled to be complete for the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Board members at a special meeting on June 19 approved the hiring of Thomas & Williamson as construction manager for the Gill Hall expansion project, at a percentage fee based on the cost of the total project. On Aug. 1, the board also approved the hiring of KU Resources Inc. as civil engineer and Eckles Architecture and Engineering as the architects for the project.

Upgrades to the heating and cooling system at Pleasant Hills Middle School will come later when funds become available, Ghilani said.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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