Colfax school board approves $1.9 million energy efficiency project

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — The Colfax Board of Education has approved spending $1.9 million on the energy efficiency project.

School board members spent nearly two hours at the June 17 meeting going through the list of projects recommended by H&H Energy Management to decide which items to keep and which items to eliminate.

All together, the projects recommended by H&H Energy Management came to nearly $3 million with an annual savings of $174,000 on energy and operations and maintenance.

The final list of projects approved by the Board of Education totals $1.89 million with an annual savings of $144,000 on energy and operations and maintenance.

At a special meeting June 4, the Colfax Board of Education approved a resolution to borrow up to $2 million for the energy efficiency project.

The advantage of using H&H Energy Management is that the company must guarantee the savings to the school district, said Bill Yingst, superintendent of schools.

“H&H must certify the savings. It’s the lynchpin in the whole process,” Yingst said.

Joel Hilson, school board member, said he was concerned about whether the school district would be spending the money on competitive bids and receiving the best prices.

H&H Energy Management calculates the cost and the savings of the individual projects on vendors the company has selected.

The usual approach for a construction project would involve the school district advertising for competitive bids and awarding the job to the lowest bidder.

“There is no incentive for (H&H) to raise the price any more than necessary,” Yingst said, adding that selecting vendors who charge a higher price rather than a lower price would cut into H&H’s profit margin.

Yingst handed out a sheet containing H&H Energy Management’s fee schedule for performance contract projects.

According to the fee schedule, based on percentage values of the project cost, H&H charges 4 percent for maintenance and verification, 1 percent each for insurance and a performance bond, 2 percent for contingencies, 3 percent for overhead and 3 percent for profit.

The company must report to the state and certify the energy savings for the Colfax school district for ten years, Yingst noted.

State law currently allows school districts to borrow money for energy efficiency projects outside of the revenue limits.

Bus grant

Yingst also reported to the Board of Education that Colfax will be eligible for at least a $10,000 grant from the Wisconsin Gas Company for buying LP powered buses.

Kyle Knutson, co-manager of Cedar Country Cooperative, researched the grant possibility, he said.

The Wisconsin Gas Company is encouraging the purchase of LP powered buses, and the company is willing to support the purchase of those buses, Yingst said.

With the grant factored in, the price of an LP powered bus is lower than a diesel bus, he noted.

Financials

At the June 4 special meeting, school board members learned that the Colfax school district is eligible for a Qualified Zone Academy Bond through the state Department of Public Instruction in the amount of $1 million that could be borrowed at zero percent interest or for a low interest rate of perhaps a half a percent.

The energy efficient project will cost $1,891,581.

If $1 million is borrowed at zero percent interest, that leaves $891,581 that would be borrowed with interest.

No information was available at the June 17 meeting regarding the impact of the energy efficiency project on the tax levy, the mill rate or the debt service payment.

The Colfax school district currently has no debt.

Yes and no

The Colfax Board of Education approved the $1.9 million energy efficiency project with four votes in favor and two votes opposed.

Voting in favor were Don Berge, school board president, and board members Mike Lee, Christie Hill and Ken Neuberg.

School board members Joel Hilson and Jodi Kiekhafer voted again the motion.

Hilson said he wanted more assurances that the cost to the school district would be based on competitive bids.

Board of Education member Todd Kragness did not attend the June 17 meeting.