Eastport South Manor Green Energy Project Should Bring Savings

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The Eastport South Manor School District has launched an energy savings project that officials estimate could save them millions in utility costs over the next few decades, while also drawing in additional revenue in the form of state aid.

Richard Snyder, the assistant superintendent for business for ESM, said the district’s utility bill should be reduced by between 30 and 40 percent each year, resulting in about $9.7 million in savings over the next 18 years, under the plan that calls for across-the-board upgrades in the district’s four schools. A portion of that savings will be used to pay $7.2 million to Johnson Controls, a national company that has offices in Syosset, to make equipment upgrades in the schools, leaving the district with about $2.5 million in savings that the Board of Education could then reallocate during the next budget process. The district pays an average of $1.4 million annually in utility bills.

In addition to those projected savings, the State Education Department would fund the majority of the project costs, resulting in about $500,000 in additional state aid each year, district officials said. Mr. Snyder explained that the district will need to borrow money to make the payments to Johnson Controls until the savings are realized, though he said it will not impact school property taxes.

“It’s self-funded, and that’s by design,” he said. “It wouldn’t get approved by the state if it wasn’t self-funded.”

The district signed a contract with Johnson Controls in 2011 after putting the project out to bid. The State Education Department approved the proposal last month, and workers recently began making changes that officials said would reduce the amount the district pays to heat, cool and light its schools. Though ESM originally awarded the bid in 2009 to Atlantic Energy Solutions, a company in Saratoga Springs, the state didn’t approve the project due to concerns from both state and district officials over the company’s financial standings, Mr. Snyder said.

As part of the upgrades, the lights in the district’s four schools will be replaced with more efficient models, the boilers and burner at Eastport Elementary School will be replaced, and co-generation plants, which run off natural gas and produce both electricity and heat, will be installed in the junior-senior high school off Moriches-Middle Island Road in Manorville. In addition, heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems will be upgraded throughout the district, and the doors at the junior-senior high school will be sealed to better retain heat and air conditioning.

The work is expected to be completed by August 2014.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” Mr. Snyder said during a Board of Education meeting held earlier this month, adding that the project, once finished, will make the schools more sustainable.

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