, Newburyport, MA

August 29, 2011

Pentucket earns $5.54M for energy conservation

Financing will be used for elementary school improvements

By Jennifer Solis

WEST NEWBURY — The Pentucket Regional School District is getting a $5.54 million boost in its effort to make its buildings more energy efficient.

The school district last week received the largest share of $16 million in low-interest, federally subsidized financing provided to eight communities across the state.

In its application, Pentucket officials said they plan to use the funding to offset the cost of efficiency measures aimed at reducing energy consumption by 20 percent as part of building projects at its four elementary schools.

"The district applied for and was very fortunate to receive a qualified energy conservation bond allocation as a potential means of financing the towns' portions of the green repair projects taking place at all four of the district's elementary schools," Pentucket Business Manager Amy Pocsik said.

The federal program is designed to support renewable energy creation and efforts to cut municipal energy consumption as well as to fund municipal wind power and anaerobic digestion projects. Projects in Belchertown, Cohassett, Deerfield, Fairhaven, Gill, Kingston and Marshfield will also receive a portion of the $16 million pot.

Energy-efficient measures are being incorporated into several building projects in the Pentucket district.

As part of a green school repair component to a $5.2 million expansion project at Bagnall Elementary School in Groveland, the building's heating equipment is being updated and doors, windows and the roof are being replaced The anticipated cost for the energy improvements is $2.4 million.

In West Newbury, energy efficiencies included in the Page Elementary School renovation project target replacing the boiler and removing two of the four systems in the boiler room as well as installing a new roof and windows. Last fall, voters approved spending $10 million for the Page renovation project.

Pentucket School Committee Chairwoman Chris Reading said the Page Building Committee is waiting for the state Historical Commission to approve the green repair phase of the project before ordering the windows and roof. Reading said it is unlikely the new boiler will be up and running before the Oct. 15 deadline for turning on heat in the district schools, so Page School will need to rely on its existing boilers for one more winter.

"But the really old furnaces will be removed during the fall to make room for the new ones to go into their space," Reading said.

In Merrimac, Sweetsir Elementary School is having duct work installed for a new heating and ventilation system and will be getting new windows and roofing. Donaghue Elementary School is also scheduled to receive a new roof this fall. The total combined costs for the Merrimac school improvements is $3.4 million.

Last week, the Pentucket school board toured the four elementary schools with facilities manager Greg Hadden and Superintendent Paul Livingston to view the condition of the schools before the work begins.

Reading said the state wanted all funding for the energy improvements spent by the end of December, but because of the number of projects in the works around the state, some schools are getting extensions on that deadline.

"I'm not sure if Pentucket will also need to file for extensions, but the owner's project manager and designers will keep on track of the time line," she said.

The Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 enacted by Congress authorized the issuance of qualified energy conservation bonds to state, local and tribal governments to finance certain types of energy projects.

Under the qualified tax-credit bonds, the borrower pays back the principal on the bond and the bondholder receives federal tax credits in lieu of traditional bond interest payments. The bonds allow a project to obtain no- or very low-interest financing while encouraging investment in clean energy projects.

In a press release issued last week, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. said, "In Massachusetts each year, we spend approximately $22 billion on energy, about $18 billion of which goes out of the state and the country. This program rewards municipalities and organizations for meeting their energy needs by adopting clean energy practices that lower operating costs while reducing our dependence on imported fuel."

"By helping these communities and private entities embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies, we are able to take big steps forward in meeting our goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions," Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia added.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 authorized $3.2 billion for the energy conservation bonds, allocated among the states based on population. The commonwealth has $50.8 million available to distribute. No more than 30 percent of the funding may be used for private activities, and 70 percent must be used for governmental purpose bonds.

"This is another example of the Recovery Act improving communities and putting people back to work," Massachusetts Recovery & Reinvestment Office director Jeffrey Simon said. "The qualified energy conservation bonds provide resources for cities and towns to take innovative steps to reduce their energy costs."