School district will save #036;550,000 on interest-free loan

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 25, 2001

Come winter, things will be heating up at several Austin School District buildings.

Monday, June 25, 2001

Come winter, things will be heating up at several Austin School District buildings.

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Seimens, the international conglomerate which guaranteed an interest free 14-year loan for the district, has started to replace boilers in several of the district’s buildings as part of Seimens’ Building Technology Services contract.

During the 14 years, the contract will save the district $550,000 through a Qualified Zone Academy Bond.

This is a zero percent interest loan that will be repaid through energy savings that the district would have otherwise spent on inefficient energy costs.

Every year, for the duration of the loan, the district’s energy bills will fall and the money that would have been used to pay for the higher bills will be applied to the principal on the loan. Even though energy prices might rise, Seimens has guaranteed the level of energy usage.

Work in the district began June 1 and will be completed by Nov. 1.

Ceilings at Woodson Elementary will be lowered, Ellis Middle School will get new gym lights and Banfield and Sumner Elementary Schools will get lighting improvements in many classrooms.

The most expensive project is a series of boiler replacements at schools throughout the district.

Two 48-year-old steam boilers, which were "oversized for the application, and inefficient," according to Rob Wright, group operations manager for Performance Contracting at Seimens, have already been taken out of the high school. Two more are scheduled for removal in the next few weeks.

They will be replaced by six new units. Two will be 92 percent high-efficiency, hot water boilers that will heat the high school’s main building.

Two more will be standard efficiency hot water boilers that will operate at 84 percent efficiency, and run on either gas or fuel oil. These will be used if it gets especially cold outside, and Austin Utilities tells the school district, under a reduced rate plan, to cut off gas consumption.

The annex, which still has steam heat, will be supplied by two additional boilers, which will have high turndown burners to increase efficiency.

Southgate, which was remodeled several years ago, will also get a new, high efficiency boiler, while the current unit will be upgraded and used as a backup. At Neveln, a single, 40-year-old heating system will be replaced with two newer boilers.

The only building the district owns that will not receive upgrades is the Administration Building, which is not being used by the school district next year.

School Board member Richard Lees says that the district will wind up spending only $18,000 for the entire project.

Lori Volz credits a special statute in Minnesota that allows the district to approach companies that provide performance contracting. It makes it possible for the district to get a loan of $2,150,000 for its improvements.

After Volz realized that the district needed to decrease its energy usage, they performed an energy audit to identify potential areas for energy savings.

When the district put out a call for bids for new equipment, Seimens Building Technologies approached them with the opportunity.

Seimens is coordinating the project, but local contractors, like L and M Boilers, are completing the work.

Call Sam Garchik at 434-2233 or e-mail him at