Thursday, August 14, 2008

SDL striving for energy-efficient infrastructure

The Finance Committee of the School District of Lancaster met, Wednesday evening.

Among various contracts and agreements recommended to the full board for approval is an agreement with the wireless provider T-Mobile whereby SDL receives $2,000 a month in exchange for permitting a cellular tower on the roof of Hamilton Elementary School, and the same amount for permitting a cellular tower on the roof of Hand Middle School.

SDL's business manager, Matt Przywara, said that the term negotiated is five years, resulting in $240,000 for the School District.

The Finance Committee also voted to recommend approval of more than $342,000 for consulting engineering and LEED certification services regarding the District's upcoming renovations to 16 of its schools.

LEED (or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a set of standards for certifying that a building is highly energy efficient. While initial construction costs of LEED-certified buildings tend to be much higher, the savings in operating costs over the next handful of years usually justifies the expenditure. Energy-efficient buildings may also qualify for a number of tax credits.

Although the Finance Committee did not act on the proposal at its Wednesday meeting, the School District is entertaining entering into a contract with the County of Lancaster for roof greening dollars through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Under the proposal, SDL would permit the installation of 22,500 square feet of "green roof" on its buildings and be reimbursed at a rate of $5 per square foot for installation and up to $6,210 in maintenance reimbursement costs over the first six months.

"Roof greening" is the practice of covering the roof and portions of the exterior of a building with plant life. Doing this provides significant benefits in terms of energy efficiency for the building, and flood/erosion control in that the plants absorb water that would otherwise become runoff.

SDL's Business Manager, Matt Przywara, explained that the $5 per square foot reimbursement itself would pay for the costs associated with installation of the green roof material.

Board President Patrick Snyder expressed cautious optimism, saying, "I love the idea" but going on to ask whether such roofs would need to be replaced more frequently.

Others on the committee suggested that they did not believe this would be a substantial concern, but left the matter an open question for now, as it was a new introduction to the agenda.

With the fiscal year drawing to a close, SDL's General Fund closed the month of June with a positive balance of $4,187,340. By expenditures, the District is 97.19% of the way through their Fiscal Year 2008 General Fund budget. The salaries and benefits of its employees is by far the largest item in the District's $149 million General Fund budget.

School Board members Jacqueline McCain, Linda Troublefield Owens, and Janelle Simms sit on the finance committee, which meets once a month.

The next full school board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 19 at 7 p.m.