Glenwood City school referendum projects expected to save $50,000 per year in energy costs, add filtration for sand dust

By LeAnn R. Ralph

GLENWOOD CITY  —  Projects included in the Glenwood City school district’s two binding referendum questions on the April 7 ballot are expected to save $50,000 per year in energy costs.

Improvements to the heating and ventilation system also would add a filtration system to filter out sand dust from the nearby frac sand mine proposed by Vista Sand.

“It is hard to have an accurate projected energy efficiency annual savings until we know what portion of the system will be upgraded. It is expected that we will see an annual savings of $50,000 if based upon current conditions and use,” said Tim Johnson, school district administrator.

Question No. 1 for $4.74 million includes moving the elementary and middle school/high school offices from the interior to the entrances of the building for safety purposes; remodeling the old offices for classrooms; remodeling a room for the Board of Education meetings; replacing the elementary school roof; installing new fire alarms; improving traffic flow in the bus and parent drop off and pick up area by the elementary school, and replacing the heating and ventilation system in the elementary school.

Question No. 2 on the April 7 ballot for $4.5 million would upgrade the heating and ventilation system in the middle school/high school.

Voter approval of Question No. 1 would be expected to add zero dollars to the property tax levy because an existing debt has been paid off, and the money currently used for debt service would continue to be used for the new debt.

Voter approval of Question No. 2 would be expected to add about $83 per year in school taxes per $100,000 of property value.

1992

The Glenwood City elementary school was built in 1992 and still has the original heating and ventilation system.

The 1997 referendum allowed some work to be completed that replaced portions of the heating and ventilation system in the rest of the building. Before that, each classroom had its own radiator-type of heating system.

Heating is provided through a closed-loop water boiler system, and the boilers are located in the high school. The boilers heat the water, and then tubing carries hot water throughout the building using an exchange system to provide heat.

50 to 85 degrees

In addition to savings on energy efficiency, improvements to the heating and ventilation “will enable us to control the temperatures in the classroom, which we are currently not able to do consistently,” Johnson said.

“The district has had vendors try to improve upon the existing system. (But) part of the issue is the ‘patching’ of the system rather than a comprehensive approach,” he said.

If voters approve only Question No. 1 with a new heating and ventilation system in the elementary school, “it still leaves the district with the heating and ventilation problems in the middle school/high school areas where there is inconsistent heating, 50 degrees in one classroom and 85 degrees in another,” said Dr. Charles Rasmussen, president of the Board of Education.

Replacing only part of the heating and ventilation system also would mean expense to school district taxpayers through costly repair issues, such as trying to find obsolete replacement parts and constant maintenance issues for a system that has been in use for 20 years, he said.

If only Question No. 1 was approved, and only the heating and ventilation system in the elementary school were replaced, the heating and ventilation in the elementary school could be controlled as desired, Johnson said.

The problem would lie in getting the two systems — new in the elementary school and old in the middle school/high school — to work well together, Johnson said.

“There are concerns on how introducing a new system to an outdated system with interconnections within the water loop will function,” he said.

“(New) digital controls versus our current pneumatic system will reduce leakage around the valves and also allow for valve opening and closing as designed to control the air flow and ultimately temperature in the classroom,” Johnson explained.

Fewer savings

Another concern is that if only the elementary school heating and ventilation system is replaced, the school district will not save as much on energy costs.

“The majority of the energy savings comes with the upgrade to the middle school/high school due to the square footage difference between the two sections of the building,” Johnson said.

The middle school/high school covers about five times the amount of square footage as the elementary school.

“The district will not be able to upgrade the middle school/high school without a referendum. If only the elementary school portion is upgraded, and the middle school/high school is in the extended future, then we run into the same potential of systems being ‘patched,’” Johnson said.

“The new and outdated systems would co-exist, it just would not allow us to control the temperature in whichever building did not get updated, and we would not see nearly the energy savings,” he said.

If neither of the referendum questions are approved by voters, school district officials would need to determine the next path to take, Johnson said.

“I do think it is critical for people to know that the district is restricted to project items listed under each question. In other words, if only Question 2 passes, we are not able to do any of the projects in Question 1,” Johnson said.

Frac sand

Another important component of the projects included under Question No. 1 and Question No. 2 is a filtration system that would filter out sand dust in the air from the nearby frac sand mine proposed by Vista Sand.

“During all the years I’ve lived in Glenwood City, the discussions that have taken place concerning the sand mine have been the most controversial, fractious, and contentious I have experienced in this community,” Dr. Rasmussen said.

“The school board and the district administration spent considerable time developing a Memorandum of Understanding between the school district and Vista Sand to monitor outdoor air quality, restrict trucking times, and regulate blasting schedules in an attempt to promote a safe and healthy outside environment for our staff and students,” he said.

Safety

“Safety, security, and efficiency. Each of our projects is centered within one or more of those themes. Not only do we save money with updated heating and ventilation, another important aspect is the filtration,” Johnson said.

“The new system is designed to help filter our air so that if we do have mining operations located near the school in the future, our indoor air quality will be improved and be safer,” he said.

“Our mechanical engineers have designed the system to filter the sand dust. The heating, ventilation and filtration system would also reduce the number of outside air access points, further reducing migrant dust entering the building,” Johnson said.

The Community Task Force that investigated the issues facing the school district “had the health and safety of the environment within the school buildings for staff and students as the number one priority,” Dr. Rasmussen said.

“The Trane Corporation provided the school board with information that with the installation of a new heating/ventilation system, an air filtration system could be provided to filter air particulates down to any size desired,” he said.

“Especially with the sand mine in close proximity to the school, air quality within the buildings was a major priority of the Task Force. Therefore, it was decided to pose Question No. 2 to the school district residents. Are the district residents willing to spend additional moneys so that the inside environment and air quality is safe and healthy for the staff and students in the middle/high school buildings?” Dr. Rasmussen asked.

“A vote ‘yes’ to Question No. 1 will give the school district the means to provide an up-to-date, safe, and healthy environment for our elementary students. This is the Task Force’s top priority,” he said.

“A vote ‘yes’ to both Question No. 1 and Question No. 2 will give the school district the means to provide an up-to-date, comfortable, safe and healthy air quality and environment for all our staff and all our students,” Dr. Rasmussen said.

March 18

The Tribune Press Reporter will be publishing another article on the Glenwood City school referendum in the March 18 edition.

The next article will address the process used by the Community Task Force to identify projects; the elementary school roof; a breakdown of some of the individual costs for various components of the projects; and a timeline for completing the work if voters approve both questions.

Informational meetings

An informational meeting on the School District of Glenwood City’s April 7 referendum will be held at the Glenwood City Community Center on Monday, March 16, beginning at 7 p.m.

Another public informational meeting will be held at the Glenwood City high school library on Monday, March 23, beginning at 5 p.m.