Addison Northwest seeks $7.6M school bond

VERGENNES — Residents of the five Addison Northwest School District communities will be asked on March 6 to support $7.6 million of energy-efficiency, security, safety and kitchen improvements to the four district schools, with most of the spending devoted to Vergennes Union High School.
If voters back this measure in Australian balloting held in each ANWSD community on Town Meeting Day, ANWSD officials said the work would be done this summer.
ANWSD board members have repeatedly said in recent months that the upgrades are critical — the VUHS heating and ventilation system is described as “in failure” by a consultant’s report, for example — and that if residents back the bond their taxes will not rise.
Bond members cite both the guarantee by project contractor, Energy Systems Inc. (EEI) of New Hampshire, of at least $212,000 a year in energy savings, and the upcoming expiration of the 2001 bond that paid to expand and renovate VUHS.
Plans to pay for this bond call for two years of interest-only payments of about $200,000 that the energy savings will offset, followed by $600,000 payments that will equal the combined total of the expiring payments on the 20-year-old VUHS bond and the energy savings..
“We see cost savings over the life of the loan,” board member John Stroup told the Vergennes City Council at its Feb. 13 meeting. “We see this as revenue neutral.”
The proposal calls for about $4.8 million to go toward VUHS, $1.96 million toward Vergennes Union Elementary School, $565,000 to Ferrisburgh Central School, and $89,000 to Addison Central School.
All four will get upgrades to heating controls, LED lighting, and new security measures. Enhanced security would include alarms that would sound if doors were propped open for more than two minutes, card-access entrances, and security cameras on driveways, main hallways and other critical areas. 
At the Feb. 13 Vergennes council meeting ANWSD buildings and grounds head Ken Sullivan described security as a district sore spot.
“We really don’t have any,” Sullivan said.
The single biggest ticket line item overall is $2.97 million: new boilers, heat pumps and a rebuilt ventilations system for VUHS. EEI concluded 40 percent of the VUHS ventilation system does not work on top of a failing boiler.
Related expenses include replacing three aging rooftop ventilation units with new heat pumps that can supply either warm or cool air to the building, with a price tag of $187,650.
Controls for the heating and ventilation (HVAC) system — the current controls barely function, per EEI — will cost $342,000.
“Some of the schools’ systems are unsuitable. They are not functioning properly,” Stroup said at the council meeting.
Included in the proposal is a $550,000 solar array to be placed on the newer sections of VUHS roofing. EEI projects the array through net-metering will save ANWSD $334,000 per year.
Sullivan said on Feb. 13 that estimate could be conservative.
“We’re hoping that’s on the small side,” Sullivan said. “They’re guaranteeing that.”
Other items at VUHS include security ($265,200), lighting (a $293,000 item projected to save $22,000 per year), and insulation ($50,540 and projected to save $4,000 annually).
VUES and Ferrisburgh Central share a number of similar proposed improvements, including gym ventilation systems ($243,750 at VUHS and $226,100 at FCS), improved kitchen ventilation (some items are not currently up to code, according to officials, and a state fire marshal identified fire hazards in each kitchen), electrical and controls upgrades, walk-in cooler controls, and the lighting and security improvements.
VUES also gets a new boiler and hot water heater, plus modified piping ($358,410); air cooling in offices and year-round classrooms ($105,336); replacement of 1970 vents with energy recovery units; and a sprinkler system ($334,800).
Sullivan said at the council meeting it was more efficient to do the sprinkler system at the same time as the other work.
“Let’s do it while it’s open rather than come back a year from now,” he said.
The proposed work at Addison Central is limited to a controls upgrade, LED lighting, and security improvements.
Board members also note EEI, which was hired after a competitive bidding process, has completed similar work in the Bennington School District and at Otter Valley Union High School.
Details on the bond and what is proposed are available at anwsd.org, including a FAQ page, a school-by-school breakdown of the project elements and their cost, and a 12-minute video featuring a look at some of the VUHS issues and comments by Sullivan, VUHS Principal Stephanie Taylor and ANWSD Board Chairwoman Susan Rakowski.
“Please do check out the website,” Stroup told council members.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]

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