, Port Arthur, Texas

February 17, 2014

Study shows aging infrastructure affecting PN-GISD energy efficiency

Mary Meaux
The Port Arthur News

GROVES — A recently released study shows aging equipment, long past its prime, is costing Port Neches-Groves ISD money in terms of higher utility bills.

The main energy waste seems to be coming from heating, ventilation and air conditioning units at the elementary schools, Vincent Zubicek of Schneider Electric told PN-GISD board members during last week’s meeting.

Zubicek toured the district’s 13 buildings and found four key issues that he felt needed to be addressed: aging infrastructure at the district’s elementary schools, aging and unused technologies throughout the district, the need to provide the proper infrastructure to make the district more energy efficient and generate revenue by reducing operating costs and lack of precision and reliability with analysis of utility costs.

The district’s audited facilities have an annual utility baseline of $1.1 million and Schneider Electric estimates a potential savings of up to $283,236 annually and more than $4.2 million over a 15 year equipment lifespan, Zubicek said.

Schneider Electric’s findings echo those of the district’s maintenance officials who updated the district on the HVAC systems — the cost to replace the dated equipment comes in at about $1.45 million.

Jeff Bergeron, the district’s new director of facilities management and maintenance, told of 40-year-old boilers still in use at some of the schools and of an Environmental Protection Agency mandate to do away with the use of R-22 refrigerant.

“In 2010 we saw a significant decline in production of commercial size equipment containing R-22. By 2015 the purchase of commercial air conditioning units and parts for our remaining A/C units containing this type of refrigerant will become even more difficult,” Bergeron said. “Also in 2015, according to the EPA timeline, we expect a 90 percent reduction in consumption and production of this refrigerant.”

The EPA is calling for a 100 percent reduction of the product by 2030.

“We are in a preventative maintenance mode, that’s a nice way to put it,” he said.

Leonard LaPoint, Bergeron’s predecessor and current coordinator of facilities management and maintenance, and staff have been working on a list of HVAC issues and the previous problem areas will be added to the current list and prioritized.

The issue, he said, is something that will keep creeping up year by year as the district works on the aging equipment.

Board President Rusty Brittain worried about the rising cost of the equipment.

“Several years ago we looked at the possibility of combining the elementaries,” Britain said. “I’m not saying we’re going to combine them, but this is a pretty extensive bill.”

Superintendent Rodney Cavness said he would like the district to get to the point at which energy savings are under way and that money is used on staff.

The possibility of a bond issue as a way to fund the needed projects was not discussed during the meeting. The last bond issue approved by voters in PN-GISD was in 2007 that funded construction of Groves Middle School, Port Neches Middle School, renovations to the Port Neches-Groves High School stadium, new roofs for the elementary schools and the demolition of the two old middle schools.


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