Tuesday February 15, 2011

PUTNEY -- The Putney Central School Board plans to ask voters for $440,000 for an energy conservation and improvement project at the school.

Putney residents will vote on the funding by Australian Ballot on Town Meeting Day, Tuesday, March 1, at the Putney Central School gym.

The project, which will upgrade the central and southwest portions of the school, is being done to help improve the climate within the buildings, and also to save energy over the long term, School Board Chairman Benji Cragin explained.

"We have deferred maintenance on this building for way too long and it is time to upgrade," Cragin said. "We are wasting money every year heating this building and it doesn't make any sense to put this off."

The school board will host a special informational meeting on the project this Thursday, Feb. 17, at 6:30 p.m. in the school gym.

Cragin said if voters approve the bond, the bulk of the work will be done on the oldest section of the school, which was built in 1958.

The entire section is poorly sealed against the weather and insufficiently insulated, Cragin said.

He said all of the exterior will be stripped with new insulation added throughout and the windows will be replaced.

About half of the hard costs of the project will go toward mechanical and electrical upgrades to the ventilation system.

Cragin said currently some rooms get too warm while others remain cold. The ventilation system was installed more than 50 years ago and he said, like the insulation and windows, the ventilation upgrade will save the town money in the long run.

The total area affected by the work is about 20,000 square feet.

"With the new system we will only heat a room when we need it," he said. "Right now we have an environment that is not as good for learning as it should be."

The total project is actually expected to cost about $480,000, but the board wants to use $40,000 in the Capital Reserve Fund, and ask voters for the rest on Town Meeting Day.

According to an estimate that the board did, the project will reduce the school's energy use by about 18 percent and save the school about $8,000 the first year.

If the project comes in at or under budget, then the renovation will pay for itself in 22 years, according to the board's estimate.

Cragin said the district finance office is still working out details on the bond and he promised to have more details on the impact to taxpayers at the informational meeting Thursday.

If the bond is approved, Cragin said the work will be done this summer. A complete energy audit of the school was done in 2008 and the three-phase project grew out of that report, Cragin explained.

In May 2010, the school board got approval for the $200,000 to finance the first phase of the project, which included adding insulation and a new ventilation system to the school gym.

A new vestibule was also added on the front of the building to increase sunlight and keep out drafts when people are leaving and entering the building.

That work was finished up during this past summer.

Cragin said the third phase, which will address the heating and ventilation systems and could include a wood chip or pellet boiler, will most likely be put before the voters next year.

"This is not a project where we are asking for money for Smart Boards and furniture. This is a bare bones project where we are renovating a building that has been neglected for a long time," Cragin said. "We can't keep putting it off. In the long run it will pay for itself."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reform-er.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.