The DeKalb West School construction project may be ready for a bid opening in March.
Jim Harrison, engineer for Kaatz, Binkley, Jones, & Morris Architects of Mount Juliet, updated the school board on the project Thursday night. “I’m just here tonight to update you on the progress that we’ve made on the design. We’re proceeding through design. We’re really on track for a schedule to get plans to the printer for March 7. That’s our target date. We’ll have drawings to the fire marshal on March 8. That’s all in an effort to get to the March 28 bid opening. We’ll have a pre-bid on March 13 but we’re continuing at this point through design. Different elements of design are a little further along than others. Our goal is to get this all set up and to anticipate a year long construction period following that bid cycle,” said Harrison.
FEMA grant funds of more than $1.5 million have been approved for the “Tornado Safe Room” addition at DeKalb West School. The plan calls for $600,000 in local funding to meet a 12.5% FEMA grant match for building eight tornado “safe rooms” at the school. The proposed addition will be constructed in the front of the school, including eight classrooms, restrooms, a new secure entrance, an office, clinic, conference room, guidance and teacher work area. A cafeteria and kitchen renovation is also included for the school. Local funding is in place for project costs not covered by the grant.
In other business, the board of education voted 3-2 to sign a letter of intent with Energy Architects in Nashville, a strategic solar project development company, to possibly enter into a business arrangement facilitating the financing, design, construction, installation, and maintenance of solar panels on up to six local school buildings.
Jon Sturgeon, spokesman for Energy Architects, pitched the proposal to the school board. “Essentially, what we’re doing is a public/private partnership. We are a strategic renewable energies company, primarily focused on solar and energy efficiency projects. All of our background and expertise is in solar deployment and things of that nature,” said Sturgeon.
According to Sturgeon, the letter of intent is non-binding and allows the company to pursue looking at this project. “This will allow you to share your electric bills, for us to work in your behalf at no cost to you, to go to each building to do site drawings where the solar panels would fit on the buildings, to submit those into your local utility, to work with your local utility, and then to submit them to TVA for approval of the project. The letter of intent allows us to have time to put this whole project together for you. Once we’ve done all the analysis, we’ve got the funding group, and we’ve got the document before you, then we’ll bring something and you’ll look at it and decide if you want to do it,”said Sturgeon.
Board members Kenny Rhody, Charles Robinson, and Chairman Johnny Lattimore voted in favor of signing the letter of intent. Billy Miller and Doug Stephens voted no because of concerns over certain wording contained in the letter. Board members W.J. (Dub) Evins, III and John David Foutch were absent.
Through the TVA Green Power Providers Program, DeKalb County Schools would partner with the Tennessee Valley Authority by having solar panels installed at up to six school buildings at no cost to the school system. The money would come from third party investors. The energy produced goes straight to the TVA power grid and TVA would pay the school system a premium for the energy that’s produced by the solar panels. “Essentially, we install it, we operate it, we maintain it. Typically, it’s a twenty year agreement that we do. At the end of twenty years you own it,” said Sturgeon. “The largest system that can be deployed in Tennessee is a 50 kilowatt system. Our model is to build, manage, and operate these systems. We essentially build these systems and work with municipalities and school districts to put them on their roof tops at no cost to the municipality or school district. Our investors pay 100% of the capital to build and maintain these programs. We put together a commercial entity who can take advantage of the tax credits that you can’t take advantage of (as a non-profit entity). We have to go out in the investment community and find investors that are interested in a project like this. There’s an audience of investors who are interested in embracing clean energy. They also realize that because solar has no moving parts, it’s a very stable kind of energy production facility. These tend to be investors who are not really after Wall Street returns. There’s no wild returns on this. But there is really good high single digit steady returns for twenty years. That’s hard to find nowadays. This isn’t the stock market. Its physics, electricity, and TVA paying you for the power production,” said Sturgeon. “In this case, we believe you would have six buildings that would qualify so we’re probably talking about a million dollars of investment that the investors would put into this,” he added.
“TVA will only send the electric credits to the building owner or the person who has a meter. We can’t install more solar on your building than that meter is billed each month. A 50 kilowatt system is about two hundred solar panels and that would roughly offset about $1,200 per month in electrical costs. Right now you get a bill from your utilities, Smithville Electric and Middle Tennessee Electric. What would happen, each month you would get a bill that shows the number of kilowatt hours used times ten cents per kilowatt hour and there’s your total. In this program, on your bill you’ll have a second line and it will say “TVA Green Power Providers”, the number of kilowatt hours the solar arrays generated into the grid at nineteen cents per kilowatt hour. So they’re going to pay you a premium for the first ten years of almost double retail. Once the system is installed and energized you’ll get a thousand dollars from TVA for each of the six buildings but the recurring revenue over and above the cost of the payment for the system, which would be your revenue, would probably work out to be about $58,000 per building or $348,000 in revenue over twenty years,” said Sturgeon.
DCHS Principal Patrick Cripps updated the board on upcoming events at the school including a presentation on bullying. “This coming Tuesday, January 15 we’ll be doing our practice writing prompt and preparation for the state assessment. Our eleventh graders will be taking that on February 5. On January 17 Camfel productions will be doing a presentation in our school on bullying. They came last year and did a really fine job of that so they’re coming back this year. Senior cap and gown pictures will be made January 30 at 8:30 a.m. in our cafeteria. Parents will be able to view the proofs of those pictures on February 2 from 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. and on February 3 from 1:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at the high school cafeteria. Its already getting that time of year when we’re getting ready for graduation,” said Cripps
Sabrina Farler, Assistant Principal at DeKalb West School, also gave a report. “From DeKalb West School, we just want to remind parents that report cards went home this past Tuesday and we’ve just now started off our third nine weeks. We’re working on safety at the west school. With the upcoming building project, we’re encouraging our parents to enter through the cafeteria entrance side door as our main entrance. We are entering and exiting that door. We’ve installed a doorbell system. A very simple doorbell system that rings in the office and one of our school employees will come and open up the door and let you in,” said Farler.
In other business, the school board adopted a resolution of appreciation honoring Food Service Staff.
The resolution is as follows:
“Whereas, Food Service Staff members rise before dawn every day in order to prepare breakfast and lunch for students and faculty; and
Whereas, Food Service Staff members can, by encouraging words and a pleasant attitude, spread joy to students and make every day better for them and increase their chances of learning; and
Whereas, Food Service Staff members support the programs of the school, improve public opinion of the schools and in numerous ways, contribute to the success of the students, staff and school; and
Whereas, Food Service Staff members are appreciated for their work in this county and should be honored for it during a special day just for them; and
Whereas, the Board of Education and Superintendent of DeKalb County Schools view the work of the school Food Service Staff as critically important to the success of the school; and
Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved that this board acknowledges and expresses its appreciation to each school Food Service Staff member in our school district; and
Be It Further Resolved that January 17, 2013 is hereby established as Food Service Staff Appreciation Day in all DeKalb County schools; and
Be It Further Resolved that the board encourages each principal in every school to promote a program of appreciation where students, staff and community are provided an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the Food Service Staff on this day.”