Belwood-Antis to take ‘close look’ at aging HVAC system

BELLWOOD — Bellwood-Antis school board members are expected to decide this summer whether to move forward with a project to upgrade the HVAC system in the high school/middle school building.

Officials from Schneider Electric on Tuesday presented board members with options and a recommendation for such a project.

The district is not in “dire straits” but needs to take a close look at the system, said Superintendent Thomas McInroy.

“Our concern is that our equipment is aging and about at the end of its service life. This is part of being responsible. If we are going to do it, we need to explore and look at options and find out what needs to be done,” McInroy said. “Our equipment is 28 years old and the service life is 30 years. By the time we would get this done, it would be 30 years old.”

Schneider Electric presented two viable options — both are “Air Source VRF Heat Pumps” systems.

The first proposal dubbed “Option 1A,” would maintain existing air conditioned spaces with direct digital controls throughout the building, which is now about one-third air conditioned.

“Option 1A is like the Chevy; it is a real good solution for Bellwood-Antis,” said Larry Myers, Schneider energy and sustainability consultant.

Myers also offered what he called “Option 1,” which he compared to a Cadillac — under which the building would be 100 percent air conditioned with direct digital controls throughout.

Both options include lighting renovations, converting all lights to LED. Facilities Director Tom Kovac would do the lamp installation to save money.

The options carry a significant cost.

“Option 1A would cost $3.3 million while Option 1 would cost $4.7 million. Option 1 calls for going from a one-third air conditioned building to a fully air conditioned building. By putting this system in, you will be more efficient than what you have now,” Myers said.

Savings can be achieved to lower the cost of the project.

“For Option 1A, if you take savings over a 20-year period, it will fund $940,000 worth of the project. That brings the budget for that project down to $2.36 million. We can get you a

$3.3 million project for $2.36 million,” Myers said.

Under the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act, payments can be delayed.

“You can postpone paying until the savings are achieved. If we begin construction in May 2019, the project would be completed by January 2020. Then you would start to pay; your payments would be about $234,000 a year,” Myers said. “There is a guaranteed savings. You can put no money down with no payments until January 2020.”

Myers said if the district would put $1.5 million down, the payments would be reduced to about $125,000 a year.

Myers recommended board members select Option 1A.

“It offers the greatest return, unlimited flexibility and the ability to add AC where needed,” Myers said. “Teachers will have control of the rooms. We are minimizing new controls on old equipment and you have the ability to add air conditioning as you go in the future.”

Myers presented a timeline for the project, which calls for selecting the energy services company to do the project in August. If selected, Schneider would have a recommended project for the board to approve by November.

McInroy said a selected project may be different from what Schneider presented.

“We have heard from other companies and have more to hear from. We are in the investigative and research stage. We need to figure out what we need and how best to fill that need,” McInroy said.

A decision on whether to move forward is expected soon.

“This summer we will discuss what best fits our needs, what gives us the best return on our investment. A decision will be made sometime this summer one way or the other. The buildings and grounds committee will recommend which way to go,” McInroy said.

McInroy said he doesn’t expect the project to have an impact on taxes — board members on Tuesday approved a budget with no tax increase for the second consecutive year.

“As of this minute, I would say it would have no impact. We’ve been frugal with what we’ve been doing since I’ve been here. We’ve been able to put money in capital reserve. I wouldn’t recommend we pull it all out, but we could do a hybrid, use some of that. We have to decide what is best for the district,” McInroy said.