GM board calls for more precise costs on $18M of $28M proposal Energy audit firm works toward bond vote in March 2022

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

At a special meeting on Monday night, the board of the Green Mountain Unified School District weighed the $28 million proposal put forward by the New Hampshire firm Energy Efficient Investments as a result of its “energy audit” and decided to ask for more details on the cost of some of the projects the company had proposed while setting others aside.

EEI’s Mike Davey explains the four options he presented to the board. Images courtesy of Okemo Valley TV unless otherwise noted

The project the board wanted more precise costs on added up to just under $20 million in the initial estimate. Mike Davey of EEI said he would try to deliver the numbers in December in hopes of having the package in front of the voters on Town Meeting Day in 2022.

Board chair Joe Fromberger said that ultimately, the board needs to pick the projects that go best together, then find a way to finance the work and hope the voters agree. Davey said he had checked with the Vermont Bond Bank and the current rate for bonds is 2.33 percent. Fromberger noted that the work as outlined would increase the district’s budget anywhere from 2.65 to 9 percent. The current GMUSD operating budget for its three schools — Green Mountain High and Cavendish Town and Chester-Andover elementaries — is a little over $14 million.

Options for upgrades, including a la carte

At the end of the Oct. 5 meeting with the board, Davey was asked to return with a list of the costs associated with each of the major projects – like ventilation. Instead, on Monday night, the board was presented with four options: A through D. Click on each to see details.

GM board member Josh Schroeder praises the work of GM maintenance workers who extended the life some equipment beyond expectations

At the end of each of the first three options is a brief description of its merits.  For example, the $28 million option would give the spaces “a new school feel,” while the least expensive was described as not addressing any of the “bigger picture” items. EEI also asserted that going with this option would limit the school’s choices in the future and make future renovations “more costly.”

While each option was presented as a slate of projects, Davey said the next step was not to pick an option, but to decide on an “order of magnitude” and price it out. He noted that the lists could also be approached as “a la carte” for the board to pick and choose from, and that’s the direction the board took. Board member Josh Schroeder of Chester, who said he had been working in facilities since he was 13, praised the maintenance work done at Green Mountain High over the past 50 years since very little renovation has been done.

Schroeder said a ducted system (central ventilation with ducts rather than individual ventilators in each room) is a “great starting point” and noted that the district does not have to move from oil right away and can retain some of the old system as a backup.

Board member Dennis Reilly of Cavendish calls the estimated prices for work “way off” Telegraph file photo

Davey suggested purchasing one new high efficiency boiler that uses propane and Facilities Director Todd Parah said that type of boiler is saving the Vergennes school “a lot of money.”

Schroeder said that by dehumidifying the air, the ducted system also acts as air conditioning. “It’s not full air conditioning,” said Schroeder, but removing humidity makes it more comfortable on warm days.

Board member Dennis Reilly of Cavendish suggested option A for the high school including repurposing an old and underused locker area as a nurse’s station and guidance. He also suggested option D (plus a few items) for Chester-Andover Elementary and Cavendish Town Elementary although he thought the price estimates were too high. Some members disagreed on several items in Option A to which Reilly answered “I think these prices are way off anyway.”

“You said last time you were going to go back and look at these numbers, but you haven’t changed any,” Reilly said to Davey who said that there could be some savings in a more thorough analysis of costs, but that the estimates were 80 percent accurate.

Reilly spoke in favor of bringing the GM building up to date, calling it a “sin” that more has not been done to upgrade the systems over time and echoing Schroeder’s praise of the maintenance employees who have kept the building running.

Cavendish rep. Julia Gignoux suggests adding ventilation upgrades to CTES.

“I think the high school especially needs as much as we can add to it and reduce the amount of work at the two elementary schools,” said Reilly. “That’s why I like A — minus solar — for the high school and D adding in the conversion to propane for (CAES.)”

In addition to the propane conversion, the board decided to add modifications to the parent and bus pickup areas at CAES in Option D calling that a safety issue. Board member Julia Gignoux of Cavendish also asked to put energy recovery ventilators into the classrooms at CTES and board member Wayne Wheelock of Baltimore asked about windows that could be used as fire escapes in the elementary schools.

Several board members asked about sprinkler systems, which were not required when the buildings were constructed but would be required if they were built today. A substantial amount of renovation might trigger their installation, but Schroeder noted they were more for protection of the building and the district’s investment rather than personal safety. He said that activating a sprinkler would take a lot of heat and that by the time a fire reaches that stage those near it should have already left the area. He also pointed to the proposed fire alarm panel that would feature annunciators that would be loud enough to alert everyone to leave the building.

Board chair Joe Fromberger, right, agreed with Superintendent Lauren FIerman that a vote could be done later than Town Meeting Day

Back on Oct. 5, Davey called that meeting the first of many to go over the choices facing the district, but by the end of Monday’s meeting he was asking what the “drop dead” date was for getting the nearly $20 million dollar package in front of voters for Town Meeting Day in early March of next year.

Superintendent Lauren Fierman — believing that voters are going to need some time to learn about the package and for the district to make its case — suggested that March might be early and a special vote could be held later in 2022. Fromberger agreed that the district could do a later vote.

The district board’s next meeting is Thursday, Nov. 18 but Davey is not expected to return with more specific details until December.

 

 

 

 

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  1. The voters should ask for a complete cost/benefit analysis to determine if keeping GMUHS open is a beneficial endeavor. A few concerns. As I understand it, GM has a severe shortage of bus drivers, making it extremely difficult, with dangerous overcrowding of buses. to get students from Cavendish to Chester. It would also be nice to know what the academic achievement scores are for the student population. Doesn’t seem to me that reading, writing, arithmetic and science are a priority anymore at GMUHS or any of the public schools. As an alumnus, a lifelong resident and property taxpayer in Cavendish it would seem like a reasonable request before spending upwards of $28 million dollars for an institution that is focused purely on political indoctrination and not on giving kids the skills to prosper in the world.

    The board and administrators of the Supervisory Union should also be aware that by 2035, fossil fuels, meaning propane and oil, will be banned in the state of Vermont. Not sure how long the bond terms will be but if you installed a new propane heating system, you might be required to replace it before the loan term ends. http://www.truenorthreports.com/roper-start-saving-for-your-government-mandated-kitchen-remodel

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