PLUMSTED: School officials discuss energy saving progress

by James McEvoy, Managing Editor
   PLUMSTED — School officials examined ongoing and potential energy savings initiatives in the future in the district at the April 24 Board of Education meeting.
   The discussion was stirred after a presentation of the results of last summer’s energy audit performed by the New Jersey Clean Energy Program.
   Joseph Occhiuzzo and Edward Novatkowski of the district’s maintenance department led the presentation of the four-day audit that resulted in a variety of recommendations, some of which had already been undertaken in Plumsted.
   The audit, performed by Dome-Tech, Inc. of Edison, was provided at no cost to the district.
   One way to implement the projects suggested by Dome-Tech would be to pursue an energy savings improvement program under which the district would enter into a 20-year lease purchase where the costs of the projects would be covered by the ongoing energy savings.
   The district has also explored renewable energy through solar panels and has contracted a design consultant company at not cost.
   Mr. Occhiuzzo explained even the simplest recommendations from the audit, including replacing weather stripping on building windows and doors, go a long way in producing energy savings.
   ”It sounds really minor, but it does add up,” he said. The work is expected to be performed in-house by the end of the current school year.
   Much of the suggested improvements involve the district’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems including performing preventative maintenance and upgrading computer control systems.
   ”It’s probably one of the best ways we can improve efficiency,” Mr. Occhiuzzo said, adding it would provide maintenance staff the ability to control temperatures in various district buildings remotely.
   He noted the upgrade would represent one of the recommendations’ larger ticketed items, but pointed also to past examples where it would have been useful.
   ”In the middle school we’ve had some issues with that control system that has a lot of limitations where we can’t precisely control a lot of areas and we do lose our settings for holidays and when school’s in recess,” he said.
   He noted the current system’s software is nearly 20 years old.
   Another HVAC-related initiative officials have explored is the installation of carbon dioxide detector in large spaces such as gyms and auditoriums to detect occupancy.
   The sensors would detect the general amount of people in a space and adjust how much fresh air enters accordingly. The savings arises as the system could reduce the amount of hot air in the summer or cold air the winter that enters the building, which would lessen the need for the HVAC systems to accommodate for temperature changes.
   He said his staff is still looking into the possibility and feasibility of the carbon dioxide detectors, noting it is a relatively new energy savings measure.
   Other measures include implementing a management system in soda vending machines that uses motion sensors to detect user patterns and to reduce cooling during hours where there is less usage such as overnight or during weekends.
   He noted the cost per unit would be between $800 and $1,000 and would pay for themselves in a few years.
   Board President Harry Miller asked whether the vending companies would provide the sensors. In response, Mr. Occhiuzzo said school officials would have to inquire with the companies about that possibility.
   Some of the lighting upgrades recommended by the audit have already been implemented in the district, he said.
   ”We had just started upgrading the fixtures in the gym,” he said.
   Other initiatives ongoing initiatives include closing the school buildings on Fridays during the summer and promoting energy awareness throughout the district.
   In other school business, Superintendent Dr. Karen Jones announced second grade students would continue to attend the Dr. Gerald H. Woehr Elementary School for the foreseeable future.
   Previously officials had considered moving the students to the New Egypt Primary School, which currently serves students from Pre-K to first grade.”After doing a two year feasibility study along with the administrative team much to my dismay and disappointment it’s just not feasible to fit the second grade in that building at this time without compromising other programs, putting people on carts and things like that,” Dr. Jones said. “Although educationally speaking I would love to do it it’s just not feasible,” she added. “If some reason is space were found then we could certainly revisit it.”