Education

District’s Capital Improvement Projects Ready for Next Step

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Garrett Hamlin, director of architecture for Tetra Tech Architects & Engineers, the district’s architectural firm, discusses the captial improvement project at last week’s school board meeting. Credits: Bob Dumas
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MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Capital improvement projects that will provide energy-efficiency improvements throughout the Mahopac School District and new roofs for three of its buildings is finally moving forward.

The nearly $8 million plan was originally voted down by voters last year, but it was overwhelmingly approved by voters in May during the budget vote and school board election. School officials say the projects will come at no cost to district taxpayers because the energy efficiency upgrades will ultimately pay for themselves.

At last month’s Board of Education meeting, Garrett Hamlin, director of architecture for Tetra Tech Architects & Engineers, the district’s architectural firm, and Aldo J. Mazzaferro III, director of project development for ECG Engineering, a Smithtown, N.Y.-based company hired by the district to implement the energy-performance plan, gave a presentation to the school board on the projects and laid out a time line for their progress.

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The projects include two components. The first project includes a series of energy-performance improvements (known as an energy-performance contract, or EPC) to buildings throughout the district, including the addition of solar energy. The second component is a roof replacement project for three schools: Lakeview Elementary, Austin Road Elementary and part of the high school.

Last year, the school district contracted Ameresco, an energy service company, to perform energy audits on the district’s myriad buildings to uncover potential energy-saving opportunities.

“We took a thoughtful approach to make this project was in line with the best interests of the district,” Mazzaferro said.

In the coming weeks, Ameresco will deliver its comprehensive energy audit for evaluation and review to move the project forward into the actual contract execution phase.

“We will do an almost state-like review [of Ameresco’s audit] for you to make sure this project goes smoothly,” Mazzaferro told the board.

He said he expected to be back before the school board in October to fully execute the contract once school district attorneys have had time to review it. The plan will be sent to the state Department of Education in November with the goal to begin construction in the summer of 2018 when school is not in session. The construction schedule will be about 12 months.

The energy-performance improvements include lighting fixtures upgraded to LED technology (in every space throughout the district); replacement of inefficient pneumatic temperature controls at Lakeview Elementary; replacement of exterior doors at Lakeview, Fulmar and Mahopac Falls schools; and the installation of large-scale, roof-mounted, solar PV panels at Lakeview and Austin Road schools (These will be non-penetrating systems with no nails driven into the roofs. They will be held down with bricks, which prolongs the life of the roofs.)

The energy improvements are projected to save more money than they cost, Mazzaferro said, which is why it won’t impact the district’s budget. In fact, Ameresco has guaranteed the savings, which means if the systems don’t perform Ameresco must reimburse the district.

“The solar PV project will go in parallel to the roof replacements,” he said. “You would never install [panels] on a roof that is 15-, 20-years-old because the solar array is going to generate [power] on the roof for 20 years, so we are taking a thoughtful approach by replacing the roofs beforehand. The solar will be installed on top of that.  This (the solar power) is one of the big drivers of the project to help fund those new roofs.”

Mazzaferro said that the overall cost of the energy performance contract is about $4.2 million. The first year’s guaranteed savings is $261,527, plus $108,137 in state aid. The district will make a debt payment of $337,361 and pay $8,078 for annual solar PV panel maintenance. It all results in a positive annual cash flow of $22,515 which translates to a $1.3 million positive cash flow over the 18-year term of the project.

The projected cost of the roofing project is $3.7 million. State aid will cover 42 percent of the project, which leaves about $1.55 million for the district. Last year, voters approved a measure allowing the district to create a capital reserve account that cannot exceed $2.5 million or last longer than five years. The district currently has about $1.37 million in that reserve account, money that came from unexpended reserves.

Hamlin said more roofs in the district will eventually have to be addressed, but the ones at Lakeview, Austin Road and the high school are most critical.

“Not every area of the roofs will get done,” he said. “We are only looking at the highest priority areas.”

Abatement will be included in the project, Hamlin added, for any areas where asbestos is found.

“The roofing project is a publicly bid open project, so we will put the drawings on the street and they will be out there for any contractor who is qualified to bid,” Hamlin said. “It must be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.”

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