Energy program pays dandy dividends to schools

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By Carol A. Clark

Just 3.5 years into its energy conservation program, the school district has reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost savings. By unplugging and turning off electric devices and setting back thermostats - teachers and staff have saved nearly $800,000 for Los Alamos Public Schools.

LAPS Energy Manager Allen Thomas was applauded as he presented his semi-annual report at Tuesday’s school board meeting in the district boardroom.

“The environmental impact of this savings is equivalent to 100,000 trees planted for 10 years,” Thomas told the board. “And the equivalent of nearly 4,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas reduction, 700 passenger cars not driven for one year and 367,941 gallons of gasoline saved.”

Energy savings by school year since the program’s inception includes:

• 05/06 - $151,500 - 18 percent;

• 06/07 - $242,650 – 27.5 percent;

• 07/08 - $265,200 – 27.5 percent; and

•08/09 - $134,900 – 27 percent (6 months).

The four-year program began in August 2005 after a company called Energy Education, Inc., offered the district its fail-proof plan. In return for the energy savings realized by the schools, LAPS has paid the company $60,000 annually – affording the district a net savings of some $500,000.

“In April we make our last payment to Energy Education, Inc.,” Thomas said. “But that doesn’t mean our energy education program should end … you cannot program an energy system and then just walk away.”

The majority of teachers and staff support the program,” Thomas said and urged school board members to keep it going after the contract ends.

He praised Facilities Coordinator Tom Littleton and his department for their participation in the program. “Tom and his crew do a tremendous job keeping all the hodgepodge of heating and cooling equipment running,” he said.

Superintendent Mary McLeod commended Thomas, who also teaches math at the high school, for his diligence at reminding everyone of the importance of conserving energy.

“Allen never skips a beat, always sending us reminder e-mails (to lower thermostats) before every holiday,” McLeod said.

The Trinity Site project was discussed briefly at Tuesday’s school board meeting. Board Vice President Joan Ahlers and McLeod have been working back and forth with the county revising documents and expressed disappointment at the direction the county is taking.

“We’ve had a lot of meetings about the Trinity documents and we’ve seen a lot of revisions,” McLeod said.

Having just gone through the latest revisions, Ahlers said, “There were a lot of changes and we’ll just have to muddle through.”

Board President Steve Girrens expressed dismay saying, “I feel we’ve lost our way here…our original focus,” he said. “Mary and Joan are turning into human change control machines and that’s not what I had in mind … so we’ve got to do something here.”

Board member Alison Beckman has been familiar with the project since inception and said the originally discussion has “all been blown out of the water.”

“Right now reading the documents I wanted to just stop reading them because they’ve (county) opened up so many holes and risks for the schools,” Beckman said.

Board member Jody Benson moved to call the five school board members and seven county councilors to meet about the project. Ahlers agreed except she called for a closed meeting saying, “these are still open negotiations.”

The board voted 4-0 to arrange the closed meeting. Board Secretary Ken Johnson was absent due to illness.

The board also unanimously passed a five-year facilty master plan presented by LAPS Bond and Construction Coordinator Herb McLean. The plan runs through 2013.

In other business, Littleton presented his preventive maintenance report. Two employees were put to work fulltime on preventative maintenance a couple of years ago, he said. They mainly work on code related or life/safety related issues and change of season projects.

“The Public School Facilities Authority has generated a preventative maintenance program of detailed things they’d like to see checked on a regular basis,” Littleton said. “Depending on manpower and budget restraints – we try hard to do them.”

Littleton’s workers check every smoke detector twice each year district wide, which takes a couple of weeks each time, he said.

They also check every fire hydrant in every building monthly, which are annually checked professionally.

“I personally want to thank you for all the hard work you do…you’ve definitely stretched the life of these facilities for sure,” Beckman said.

Girrens asked Littleton to extend the board’s appreciation to his crew.

Tuesday marked the final school board meeting for Girrens and Beckman. Both served four years and neither sought re-election this year. Ahlers asked that they remain on the superintendent hiring committee and each agreed to do so.

The board will hold a work session at 6 p.m., Feb. 26 at Chamisa Elementary School in White Rock. The meeting is open to the public.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her blog at www.newsextras@wordpress.com.