• 75°

School Board denies energy information

The Suffolk School Board at its Jan. 10 meeting voted against an opportunity to receive information regarding a proposed energy performance contract.

School Board Chair Phyllis Byrum, Vice Chair Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck, Karen Jenkins and Lorita Mayo voted against the motion.

Last April, the School Board voted against pursuing an $8 million energy performance contract with Trane. The contract would have allowed the school system to make energy-saving improvements that, through a state program, would have been guaranteed to pay for themselves or the company would write a check for the difference.

According to board member David Mitnick, Trane reached out to gauge if there was still any interest regarding an energy performance contract.

“I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I don’t know if any of the new board members are interested in hearing about the energy performance contract or if we should let it die,” Mitnick said.
Brooks-Buck took the opportunity to give the new members background regarding the contract and the joint committee with the city and City Council.

While the School Board saw the merits of the contract, according to Brooks-Buck, the city wasn’t willing to take on any substantial debt.

“We had a joint meeting and the city’s financial advisor spoke to us, and they told us to go back and see what we could do for $8 million,” Brooks-Buck said. “Someone has to borrow the money in the first place, but their financial advisor told us no.”

According to Brooks-Buck, after the city’s financial advisor decided against borrowing money for the contracts, the Mayor terminated the joint committee.

Despite the history, some of the new board members were still interested in getting information.

“I’d like to look at it,” said Tyron Riddick. “For the city of Suffolk to step out, I’d like to entertain the idea. I’d also like to speak to the city. I move that we have the group or business proposing the energy savings give us a presentation to the board for informational purposes.”

Sherri Story, Riddick and Mitnick voted to support the motion for more information.

City Councilman Mike Duman, a vocal advocate for the energy performance contract, was dissatisfied with the board’s vote to decline additional information.

“I’m disappointed once again in the fact that the school system has failed to reconsider negotiating a performance contract,” Duman said. “Why would you prohibit the new members of the school board even listening to a free presentation?”