11/29/2012 9:25:00 AM District goes for grant to solarize
By JEFF NORTON
Despite the Chisago Lakes’ colors already being green and gold, officials are hoping for even more green in the future. The Chisago Lakes school board heard a presentation from Director of Building and Grounds Tim Burton and middle school science teacher Pat Collins about a grant to help with the schools taking another step forward in solar energy. (The middle school has one small solar array already.)
The project would be financed through a combination of the Xcel Solar Rewards incentive, federal tax credit, depreciation and the execution of a six-year solar lease to install a 40 kilowatt solar system. The financing payments would then come directly from the savings the solar panels would create over the first six years. Over those first six years, 80 percent of the electricity savings would go to financing. After that, all the savings would be to the district. Each building in the district needs their own grant, and each one could get funding, or just some of them. Burton crunched some numbers on the potential savings, and said he figured it’d be around $1,000 a year per building for the first six years while the school pays the financing debt and then between $5-$6,000 after the first six years, depending on the cost of electricity. In theory, if each building were to receive the grant, the possible savings could be up to nearly $34,000 a year after the first six years. Collins said the whole system is guaranteed for 25 years and there wouldn’t be any cost to the district. “I really don’t see any drawbacks here,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everyone and a great deal.” For those who may be worried about the aesthetics of solar panels on the building, Burton described the panels as being no taller than three feet off the roof and likened them to some panels sitting on a bike rack. Burton mapped out where the panels could be placed on each building, since they are big units. Burton said that the grant applications are due by January 1 and they expect an answer within 30 to 60 days. Pending approval, Burton said they could start on the project in May or June. The school board supported the application. The board began its search for a new superintendent by interviewing three different search firms.
The board was leaning towards BKB Associates, but admitted they may not need a full blown candidate search, and just some help with some of the process. BKB Associates worked with the School Board ion hiring current superintendent Mike McLoughlin, who is retiring after this school year. The reason the board felt they may only need help with part of the process is because there is a “serious internal candidate” known. But, there was some concern over being too hasty. “I think we have to make sure we are being fair to all candidates, internal or external,” board member Lori Berg said. “I think the community wants the best candidate, but how do you know you’ve got the best candidate if you don’t look?” McLoughlin asked. “We just don’t have the guns in the district office to conduct the search on our own.”
After the board voiced their support for BKB Associates, Director of Business Services Heide Miller said she would speak to them about different levels of conducting the search. In other matters: Taylors Falls Elementary is taking some big strides in testing areas. The school was above the state average in the latest round of MCA math, reading and science, and percentage of students meeting targets on MAP testing had some huge jumps from fall to spring. The second graders went from 67 percent of students meeting the math requirements in the fall of last year to 91 percent in the spring. In fifth grade that same figure jumped from 57 percent to 94 percent. T. F. also had great numbers for the open house and conference attendance with all of the classes at 86 percent participation or better, the school board heard.