Barbour County Schools officials have found a new way to "energize" their budget for a project involving the Barbour County Career Center.
A renovation project and energy performance contract at Philip Barbour High School's career center complex was approved last spring by the state School Building Authority.
"This has been a long process coming," facilities director Glenn Sweet said.
However, when the original project proposal was written, the idea was that the county Board of Education could provide $150,000 toward the project.
"We identified that our financial situation had changed some," Sweet said. "The $150,000 wasn't going to be quite available, that things were rather tight."
"That money is restricted to specifically what it can be used for," Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Super said. "That money doesn't give us the freedom to use it countywide."
Even when some project budgets are not fully used, the carry-over money in the budget can only be applied for specific purposes, and any school board is limited to very few exceptions to that general rule. The school board can't simply dip into leftover funds reserved for other purposes to fund the project, but can instead find other ways to save, officials said.
Sweet said it came to his attention that the facility office at the state Department of Education was looking into the idea of energy performance contracting. After also looking into the idea, Sweet said, with the help of others, he learned that an energy performance contract for Barbour County could yield an excess of $210,000 during the term of the contract.
"I was very accepting of that idea that we were looking outside the box," Sweet said.
"They awarded the project to us with a few changes from what we had originally proposed."
Sweet said that the changes included reducing the scope of the project and eliminating flooring and some other modifications.
A classroom at the career center will be renovated and a new ceiling, sprinkler system and infrastructure for technology will be installed.
"The gymnasium alone has a major project available for it where we have in excess of 70 300-watt incandescent bulbs to light the gymnasium," Sweet said. "We've come a long way since then, as far as what energy-saving lighting options there are."
Sweet said that it is likely the lights in the gymnasium will be significantly reduced, and the amount of power saved from frequent daily use of the gymnasium use will be very beneficial.
"You can just see the savings that, hopefully, we'll be able to reap a lot of benefit from so that we might be able to back-fill some of the project that the SBA cut," Sweet said.
Three companies, Wendel, Eaton, and Johnson Control, were originally interested in the project, though Johnson Control chose not to provide a proposal. The remaining two companies provided thorough and lengthy proposals of about 300 or 400 pages each. Sweet referred to their proposals as "quite impressive."
Sweet said both proposals met requests, contained good information, and both companies had consistent prices for their audit in the amount of $20,000.
Sweet said the decision to recommend Wendel was tough to make, and a committee had to review pros and cons for each company.
The Board of Education approved Wendel for a four- to six-week overall energy audit service after a discussion leading to the conclusion that, if the audit is not satisfactory for any reason, it is not required to continue moving forward with energy performance contract services from Wendel. The approval was for the audit alone, not the entire project.
The audit will be performed not only on the career center, but also on the high school campus.
"We're opening up to them any other energy savings that they might be able to find on the high school campus, specifically focused toward the original section of the high school that was open back in 1963," Sweet said.