Onteora board considers ‘revenue neutral’ energy improvements

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

The Onteora Central School District Board of Education is considering a $3.3 million Energy Performance Contract of building improvements that it believes would save $200,000 per year. Those savings would render the proposal revenue neutral, negating the need for voter approval. At its Tuesday, October 2 meeting the board heard from Richard Kohrs of the Newburgh based Ameresco Energy Company that, for that price Onteora could convert Woodstock Elementary windows from single to double pane, replace the boiler at Phoenicia Elementary with a 95 percent efficient unit and install a separate hot water boiler at the Middle/High school intended for warmer weather that will allow the larger boiler to shut down. A 2000 watt photovoltaic solar panel to be placed on one of the schools roofs is part of the package. Other upgrades include LED lighting, steam traps and air circulation fans in the gyms.

“The energy performance contract…it’s been a long time in the making,” said Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill, “and we felt that it was prudent and we thought it would bring some important renovations to the school district and we also felt that it was good for the environment.”

The $3.3 million estimate is up from a January 2012 initial draft estimate of $2.7 million. The contract must be approved by the State and is also eligible for 30 percent payback in aid. This will help address an estimated $6.5 million needed in district upgrades, mostly due to aging facilities, as reported recently by Mosaic Architects.


Kohrs reported the total energy savings is estimated at nearly $200,000 yearly, the same yearly payback that would accrue to an 18-year loan, thus defining its cost neutrality.

School board trustee Laurie Osmond brought up the possibility of Woody-Bio mass for a heating system at Phoenicia instead of oil boilers. This created a lengthy discussion on the feasibility of using local wood for a more sustainable way of heating. “I would just like to know every possibility for converting to a biomass boiler,” said Osmond. “Since we have a redundancy at least in one of the boilers (Phoenicia), that it be explored because not only is it responsible, but a way to put energy dollars back in our community.”

Kohrs referred to a district Woody Bio-mass study, noting at the time it proved too costly. In 2009 Vermont based Richmond Energy Associates conducted an audit on the boiler system at the Boiceville site. At the time, it was estimated to cost $2.6 million for a woodchip boiler plant and according to the report, schools are required to have oil backup heating in the event of an emergency.

The board signaled its intent to vote on the contract and it’s currently posted on the district’s website under ‘October 2 agenda’ at Onteora.k12.ny.us.