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SAD 41 seeking proposals for energy efficiency upgrades at Penquis Valley

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MILO — SAD 41 has been awarded a $2.1 million quality zone academy bond (QZAB) from the U.S. Department of Education, which has a 0 percent interest rate with the principal to be paid back in 25 years. Ideas discussed on how to utilize the funds have included converting the heating system at Penquis Valley from steam to hot water and making other energy-efficient upgrades.

During an Oct. 4 meeting of the SAD 41 school board, Superintendent Michael Wright said a week and a half prior the capital improvement committee met with Jim Lucy of Honeywell — which has worked at the complex for a number of decades and would likely apply — to discuss putting out request for qualifications to decide on a firm to help implement the QZAB funds before the end of year deadline. Wright was later authorized to seek these proposals.

Lucy discussed the concept of performance contracting, with a project design, construction and ensuing operation and maintenance all handled by one firm as opposed to three different outfits. “You can have one single contract to do all of these types of services,” he said.

He said energy performance contracting would be comprised of one firm conducting an audit of the premises, finding energy savings and then the future operational costs for the various systems. Lucy said savings “help offset the cost of the project over time.”

“The primary need is the steam to hot water conversion,” Lucy said. He said the air and ventilation systems are also in need of upgrades and some building windows should be replaced.

“Those are the things this QZAB would seek to accomplish,” he said.

“We would like to put a request for qualifications by Friday,” Wright said. “It would be 15 days and then by the 23rd all the potential firms that would apply, we would know who they are.”

The superintendent said with this schedule interviews of three finalists would be done at the end of October, and a potential company would be brought before the full board on Wednesday, Nov. 1. He said the selected firm would submit its proposal by Dec. 6 and from there the directors would sign a contract. Wright said the construction would take nine to 12 months, including some work being done over the summer.

In other business, the board met with SAD 46 Superintendent Kevin Jordan and SAD 4 Interim Superintendent Ray Freve to learn more about the application process for state funding to construct a comprehensive high school to serve the two districts. There is still time for other school units to join the project, and more information can be found at www.aos94.org.

Earlier in the year the application by SAD 46 and 4 was announced as one of three finalists to move forward to complete part two of the application for an Integrated, Consolidated 9-16 Education Facility Pilot project. The other two finalists are based in and around Fort Kent and Madawaska as well as in Houlton and the surrounding school districts.

“The Department of Education is looking to build at least one of those at no cost to taxpayers to be a model for the rest of the state,” Jordan said. “We see this as making the biggest economic economic impact in the area in a long, long time.”

The comprehensive high school would offer a variety academic programs, from high school to college, and trainings and certifications in various industries. “What we want to do is be able to meet the needs of all kids,” Jordan said. He also mentioning declining enrollments in individual districts, difficulties in passing school budgets and providing more opportunities for vocational training and hands-on learning as reasons for pursuing the comprehensive high school.

He said the Department of Education would announce the awarding of funding in January. “It would be a five-year process from then until the doors open at the regional high school,” Jordan said, with three years of planning and two years of construction under a best-case scenario.

The SAD 46 superintendent said the next phase of the application is due in December.

“Location is not even a consideration yet, the Department of Education will work with districts in part three of the application,” he said. “We understand this project will not be located in downtown Dexter or downtown Guilford but somewhere in-between.”

“What we are looking for is an additional partner,” Freve said. He said willingness by SAD 41 officials to take part does not commit the district to anything.

“All it is is a seat at the table,” Freve said. “There is no commitment of money, whether you join us in the end is up to you and your people.”

The SAD 41 board had indicated a willingness to learn more from Jordan and Freve, and a possible decision to join the application process could be made at the November meeting.

In her report Brownville Elementary Principal Carol Smith said, “Our school is turning 30 this year, so plans are underway to celebrate that.”

Smith wrote that former principal Lynn Weston graciously accepted the school’s invitation to organize the 30th birthday celebration. Plans are underway and a date will be shared when the event is scheduled.

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