Letter to the editor: Proposed $7.6M bond would upgrade all four schools

To the voters of Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham,
The school board of the Addison Northwest School District is asking for your approval for a $7.6 million bond to repair and improve the facilities at the four schools in our district. The bond will allow us to repair the heating and ventilation systems at Vergennes Union High School, to install a solar array on the roof of the high school, and to upgrade the efficiency of our energy usage, safety and security systems at all four schools in the district. There are a couple of reasons we think you should vote for this bond.
This is work that needs to be done. As is well-known, our high school has an old, fragile and inefficient heating system. Significant parts of it, including the boilers, date back to the construction of the school in the late 1950s. The steam pipes are fragile, many of the water pipes are clogged with iron, and many of the roof top heating coils have broken over the years they have been in service.
Several years ago, three classrooms were significantly damaged and school was closed for two days from a steam leak. Poor circulation in the pipes was a major contributing factor to the leak, which damaged the gym floor in January, and due to the broken heating coils on the roof it is all but impossible to keep the high school properly heated, meaning parts are way too hot and parts are way too cold. None of this is conducive to good learning, and we will have to fix the school regardless.
These are projects that improve the sustainability of our communities, the efficiency of their energy usage and the safety and security of our students. While the heating problems at the high school drove our initial planning, we have taken the opportunity to think about the energy usage and needs of all the schools in our district. The projects in this proposal will allow us to use much less energy (thereby saving money), produce some of our own, install a fire suppression system at Vergennes Union Elementary School, and install security upgrades at all four schools (including door alarms), among others.
This is a project that is fiscally responsible. We are proposing a substantial set of projects, but it will be budget neutral. We can promise this because this is an energy performance contract, which means that the energy savings through these upgrades are guaranteed by the general contractor, Energy Efficiency Investments (determined through a competitive bidding process in 2017). After these projects are complete, EEI guarantees that we will use $212,000 less in energy expenses. These savings, in combination with a retiring bond from 2001, means that the cost of this bond will not affect the district’s annual budget.
In sum, this is a proposal that is necessary, significantly improves the conditions of the facilities in our district and is budget neutral. We hope that you will support the students, teachers and staff of the district by voting for this bond.
For more information on the proposed project, please go to the school district website, ANWSD.org. There we have a short video about the project, as well as a list of the proposed projects.
Tom Borchert (on behalf of the ANWSD School Board)
Waltham Representative and Chair of the Facilities Committee
ANWSD School Board

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