Districts will spend cash to save energy

Millions in state money will help with efficiency projects

By Tyler Graf and Susan Parrish

Published:

 

Three Clark County school districts will receive nearly $2.7 million in grants for energy-efficiency projects in 2013, the state announced Friday.

The Battle Ground, Ridgefield and Washougal school districts were three of 21 districts statewide to receive a share of $14 million in grant money distributed by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

After other funds are contributed, the local projects will total about $6.5 million.

Battle Ground Public Schools received $1 million toward a total projected cost of $3.96 million. Another $322,000 is covered by Clark Public Utilities incentive payments. Most of the project's remaining $2.64 million will be paid from a 2005 bond earmarked for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning work.

Buildings in Battle Ground scheduled to receive HVAC upgrades are Yacolt and Captain Strong primaries, Amboy Middle School, Maple Grove K-8 school, Battle Ground and Prairie high schools and district offices.

The upgrades will "guard against system failures and enable us to address long-standing issues of failed and aging equipment," said MaryBeth Lynn, assistant superintendent for finance and school operations.

She noted that the district expects to save $126,000 annually on electricity, natural gas and heating oil.

Ridgefield received $761,257 in grants for its energy-efficiency projects, covering slightly more than half the $1.5 million they're expected to cost.

The school district will pay the remainder from its capital projects fund. It expects to save $60,000 per year because of the projects.

The money will go toward installing new heating and cooling controls at all four of the district's schools. The systems are so old they're no longer supported by the manufacturer, the school district says.

In addition, the district will upgrade archaic heating and cooling software at the two elementary schools, which currently operate using Windows 95.

Getting past emergency work

The district will also replace the minimal insulation in the middle school's attic, said Eric Jacobson, the school district's spokesman.

Over the years, HVAC emergencies have pushed aside the drive to replace the insulation.

"It's not as much of a priority as when the heat goes out," he said.

The district expects to have the projects completed next summer.

The Washougal School District received $911,324 in grant funding for its $1.3 million in energy-saving projects.

One of those projects includes installing high-efficiency lighting. Some of the district's lighting, aside from being inefficient, has a tendency to flicker and buzz.

"It will really improve the teaching and learning environment," Washougal Superintendent Dawn Tarzian said.

Other projects include upgrading heating and cooling units, installing new controls for those units and installing low-flow aerators on all faucets.

The Washougal School District has saved about $230,000 over the past two years by undertaking energy-efficiency projects. That money will help pay for the upcoming upgrades, Facilities Director Joe Steinbrenner said.

The district expects to save about $40,000 a year more once the upgrades are in place.

A second round of state grants will be announced Feb. 28.


Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities; tyler.graf@columbian.com.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4530; http://twitter.com/col_schools; susan.parrish@columbian.com.