Energy & security upgrades at ANWSD schools wrapping up in time for the start of school

VERGENNES — When Addison Northwest School District students return to school this Wednesday they might not see dramatic changes, but district officials believe work this summer, funded by the $7.63 million bond voters approved in March, will make them safer and more comfortable in their schools.
Certainly, said ANWSD Superintendent Sheila Soule, the project came in on budget and on time: The district is ready to welcome its students.
“Everything went as planned, and we’re fully prepared to have our kids back,” Soule said.
What students will notice first on are new security measures. Vergennes Union high and elementary schools and Addison and Ferrisburgh central schools all received new exterior door and interior hallway security cameras, and all but the main entrances now have alarms that will sound immediately if doors are open.
“They’re going to notice security cameras. They’re going to notice that exterior doors are alarmed throughout the district,” said ANWSD Director of Buildings, Grounds and Security Ken Sullivan.
District employees, but not students, will have badges with ID chips that will be used to enter. Other safety measures include fire suppression range hoods in the VUES and Ferrisburgh Central (FCS) kitchens and new fire alarms at all four schools.
But Sullivan said the heart of the projects, especially at VUHS and VUES, will be less visible.
Both Vergennes schools have new boilers, while the entire heating and ventilation system at VUHS has been rebuilt from scratch, and VUES has also seen ventilation upgrades to its gym and one rear wing.
But Sullivan said students and district employees should feel the difference, especially at the high school, where many classrooms have been plagued by temperature swings due to a heating and ventilation system that the project’s contractor described as “in failure,” and the VUES gym, where aging, noisy ventilation equipment had to be turned off when it was not in use.
“A lot of this is in the tunnels, the chases, behind the walls, the boiler rooms, the storerooms, above the ceilings,” Sullivan said. “And that’s where the comfort comes from, and your energy efficiency.”
School will not be disrupted by the project, which is largely complete. Finishing touches will include work at FCS that will be done after hours and during vacations, efforts that will be ongoing for months, and final installation of the solar array on the VUHS roof and the VUHS heating system, work that Sullivan said should be done in a matter of weeks.
Sullivan added that the Ferrisburgh elementary projects were an exception because ANWSD summer offerings were moved to FCS to accommodate the more extensive work needed at VUES.
Soule said given the extensive level of work done this summer she is pleased with the minimal disruption — with the exception of a rainstorm that struck during re-roofing of the VUHS middle school gym that will take it offline for a while (Click here to see story).
“I’m not really sure it could have gone any better, and I’m really lucky to have Ken overseeing this. He’s been very thorough,” Soule said. “Obviously you can see how organized and thorough he is.”
ANWSD officials also say taxpayers will feel no pain funding the $7.63 million worth of upgrades. Plans to pay for this bond call for two years of interest-only payments of a little less than $200,000 that projected energy savings should offset.
After two years ANWSD will make annual payments of about $600,000 — payments that will roughly equal the combined total of the energy savings and expiring payments on the bond that paid for the expansion and renovation of VUHS in 2000. 
   ONE OF THE 30 new ventilation units at Vergennes Union High School sits in place on the school’s roof. New ventilation units have also been installed at other Addison Northwest schools.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Key to those projections are the energy savings that will come from a combination of more efficient controls in all four schools, the new system at VUHS and boiler at VUES, more efficient LED lighting in all four schools ($40,000 in savings alone), the 74-kilowatt VUHS solar array, the switch from 1959 steam heat in some areas of VUHS, and the move away from oil to less expensive natural gas at VUHS and VUES.
The project’s general contractor, Energy Efficiency Investments, guaranteed annual energy savings of $212,000 to the ANWSD board, and Sullivan said administrators worked with the board last winter to present a bond that would break no worse than even. Residents agreed, backing it by 987-515, or 65.7-34.3 percent.
“We kept cutting down to the bare minimum to allow this to be a revenue neutral bond,” Sullivan said. “This did not increase taxes. It has a guaranteed savings behind it.”
Project elements include:
•  Walk-in cooler controls for all four schools’ kitchens that will help efficiency and notify employees of malfunctions.
•  New heating/ventilation units for VUHS rooms that can be centrally controlled from any of at least three laptops. Sullivan said many of the old units were inadequate, not working, or both.
“They’re newly controlled, so we can control the ventilation in the entire school,” he added. “I can do it right from my laptop. I can actually do all four schools right from my laptop.” He added it might take some “testing and balancing” before all VUHS temperature swings are tamed.
•  Complete renovation of the VUES kitchen. “It was necessary because it was inadequate and not up to code,” Sullivan said.
•  Air conditioning in offices and VUES classrooms that are used year-round.
•  FCS gym ventilation.
•  Some new electrical panels and transformers, and some new sprinklers at VUES.
•  New roofing over the VUHS middle school gym and chorus and band rooms, and repair to the VUHS gym roof.
Sullivan said all elements worked on or installed have a life expectancy of between 20 and 60 years, with the possible exception of the security cameras.
Plans called for about $4.8 million to go toward VUHS, $1.96 million toward VUES, $565,000 to FCS, and $89,000 to Addison Central, which was in better condition than the other ANWSD schools.
In all, Soule said she is confident the project will serve ANWSD well for years to come.
“I think it is a great example of how a community, a school board, and a school staff can work together to bring meaningful change and a difference to schools,” she said. “As Ken said, I think we’re going to benefit from this for a long time. This was done right, and this was done well.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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