Energy program advances

Published 9:07 pm Monday, November 9, 2015

A project that could potentially save the city and schools millions of dollars on energy expenditures is moving forward, members of a joint committee heard Monday.

Schools Superintendent Deran Whitney reported at the City School Advisory Committee on Collaborative Fiscal Concerns meeting that proposals are due Dec. 1 from a handful of contractors that have been selected to give preliminary evaluations of how much the two bodies could save through the program.

Referred to as “energy performance contracting,” the state-endorsed program allows public entities to contract with companies approved by the state to participate. The companies guarantee that the energy-saving improvements they install will save enough money to pay for the debt service on the improvements. If not, the contractor writes a check for the difference.

Email newsletter signup

“It sounds like that project is moving right along,” said Councilman Mike Duman, who serves on the committee along with Councilman Tim Johnson and School Board members Judith Brooks-Buck and Linda Bouchard.

The next step after receiving the evaluations, assuming they show that a substantial amount of money could be saved, is to choose one or more contractors to provide detailed numbers. A contract could then be negotiated with one of them.

The first step at which money would be spent is the detailed analysis, Duman said during Monday’s meeting.

“That is only in the event you choose not to implement the program,” he said.

Representatives from the school system questioned where the money would come from when it came time to actually implement the program.

“Where’s the money coming from is what we need to be very clear on,” said Whitney, who is not a member of the committee but was in attendance.

Duman reminded those in attendance that no money would be spent prior to knowing whether it would save money in the long run.

“Your initial ‘back-of-the-envelopes’ are going to let you know whether it’s going to work or not,” he said, using the parlance for the preliminary evaluations.

Whitney said he was excited about the possibilities of the program.

“We have the potential to get some things done that have been in the (Capital Improvements Plan) for years,” he said.

The committee also addressed health insurance, another project it has discussed. Committee members agreed to have a meeting set up with Sentara to give information on potential coverage.

Members also hashed out differences in opinions on how the committee operates. Duman proposed a written document outlining the process and verifying the committee has no authority.

“Its only purpose is to identify, research and offer for consideration initiatives that could result in cost savings through collaboration of the two entities,” the document reads.

The committee members were asked to respond with their thoughts on the document before Jan. 1. The committee’s next meeting is Jan. 11.