School Board To Get Energy Makeover

August 7, 2018

Don McPherson (left) and Mike Evatt of ABM, which will perform an energy-loss inspection of Dade's school buildings.


The Dade Board of Education met briefly at noon on Thursday prior to presenting its millage rate for the next fiscal year formally later in the day at the Dade County Commission meeting.


Besides the 15.070 millage rate, rolled back from this year’s 15.509, board members also approved an outlay of SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) funds of $35,240 for initial work by ABM Building Solutions.


As ABM’s Don McPherson had explained during a comprehensive presentation at a previous meeting, the company assesses buildings for energy loss and recommends energy-saving solutions. At the Aug. 2 meeting he told the board the initial work included looking at three years of school data and logging how long water and electrical devices are on or off. The company’s fees are payable out of net savings after the changes and the $35K applies only if the school system doesn’t make any of them. “As long as you go forward with it, there’s no charge,” said McPherson.


Board members questioned McPherson and his associate, Mike Evatt, closely: “I kind of like to know the battlefield before I step onto it,” declared Gen. Bob Woods (ret.), asking how large ABM’s staff is.


Large, said McPherson; it’s a Fortune 500 company. But do your employees do the work, asked another board member, Jennifer Hartline, or do you subcontract it? ABM bids the work out and goes with the most affordable solution, answered McPherson.


ABM, interjected Dr. Jan Harris, superintendent of schools, simply acts as the overseer for the work, beginning with an inspection of the facilities. “This is a process that allows us to look at the big picture,” she said. She said after the energy assessment was completed, the board can decide which projects to do. She said one basic energy-saving trick, switching to LED lights at the high school, was saving the system $3000 a month. Thus, all the schools will change to LED as part of the initiative.


Dr. James Cantrell, head of operations for the school system, explained the financial process: “Technically, we’re paying them from SPLOST, but the savings goes back to the general fund.”


(Schools and local governments may use SPLOST money only for capital outlay such as building, paving or buying property such as books or musical instruments. Routine expenses such as paying utility bills and salaries must come out of the general fund.)


McPherson said the initial work should be done in nine months and reminded board members of the company’s promise to write the system a check if the changes made at its recommendation do not save enough money to cover its fees. “We don’t do change orders,” he said. “If anything happens, it’s on us.”


Speaking of change orders, another item on the board’s Aug. 2 agenda was to approve one for $6944 for exterior renovation at the high school. Dr. Cantrell explained that it was to repair “damage that happened to the building unexpectedly" during the planned work: The lintels above the school windows had suffered during pressure washing and the extra money was required to repair and replace mortar in them.


The board then went into executive, or closed-door, session and later returned to approve the following personnel changes:


The board accepted the resignations of teacher Tristaca Adams and bus driver Katie Hudson. The retirement of cafeteria worker Shelby Jean Wright was approved, and Blake Crisp was promoted to full-time maintenance worker. The board approved the voluntary transfer of Angel Weathers to teacher at Davis Elementary.


The following personnel were hired: Beverly Adkins as a teacher at Dade Middle School; Tammy Stevens as a teacher at Dade County High School; Troy Stevens, Autumn Hill and Misty Stone as bus drivers.


L'Tanya Langley, a paraprofessional, was granted her requested leave. Sara Stephens, Darla Lingerfelt and Deborah Simmons-Kendera were approved as cafeteria substitutes.


The school board has another called meeting today, Tuesday, at noon to inspect the school buildings. Its next regular meeting is at 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 20.

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