By Pat Jenkins
There aren’t many guarantees in life, but Eatonville School District has found one that’s worth more than $100,000.
The district is receiving state funding to help pay for improvements at three schools that, according to the company that will do the work, will save a combined $113,000 a year in their heating and electricity bills – guaranteed.
Eatonville is among 43 school districts in Washington that were collectively awarded $20.9 million this year for energy cost-savings projects by the state superintendent of public instruction. Eatonville’s share of $900,000 is the fourth-highest statewide.
To qualify, the Eatonville district hired Schneider Electric to conduct an energy audit of its schools. The study found that Eatonville High School, Eatonville Middle School and Columbia Crest Elementary School could reduce their energy use substantially through improvements by Schneider.
The work, starting with a conversion this fall of Columbia Crest’s heating system from diesel to propane, will cost about $2.2 million. Besides the state grant, the money will come from the district’s last bond measure.
If energy-cost savings in the first two years of improvements don’t reach the $113,000 predicted by Schneider, the company will write a check to the district for the difference.
“We’re looking forward to those savings,” said School Board member Bob Homan.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said the state money will help produce long-term operational savings for school districts and stimulate construction-industry jobs in heating, ventilation, building system controls, lighting, windows and other building systems.
“There is a very high demand in school districts” for the state energy grants, Dorn said. “The great thing is that these funds not only make students’ lives better in the classroom, they also create well-paying jobs across the state. This is truly a winning combination.”
Eatonville superintendent Rich Stewart said one of the biggest gains in savings could come at the district’s high school through better heating controls. Part of that includes a “blanket” to cover the indoor swimming pool when it’s not in use, making its heating system more efficient.
Stewart said anticipated savings districtwide will recoup the bond funds spent on the overall project in 10 years. That money will be reinvested for other capital needs.
Eatonville is one of four school districts with energy grant work going to Schneider out of a total of 43 such projects statewide that are receiving state energy grants.
Seventy school districts applied for grant money, which was appropriated through the Legislature.