Homework: Energy efficiency upgrades must be studied

Wood County Board of Education members took an important step last week when they voted to begin work on energy efficiency upgrades that would renovate or replace energy systems throughout the school system. A presentation by CMTA Energy Solutions a day before the vote detailed a $14.6 million plan to replace systems at 21 facilities.

That is good news for a variety of reasons, but, as board members know, the plan must be carried out thoughtfully.

“Right now we have at least $75 million in deferred maintenance in our county,” said board member Justin Raber. “Unfortunately we don’t have $75 million to spend. In reality, we have to take small chunks at a time. In how this (plan) is structured, it will allow us to do this in a fiscally responsible way, and at the end of the day it is going to help us save money.”

A note of caution, however, comes from up the river, in Ohio County, as officials there deal with the consequences of NOT having done all their homework while carrying out an energy efficiency plan.

CMTA was implementing a plan there that included saving on utilities by installing a new energy-efficient system to maintain the Wheeling Park High School swimming pool’s water at a desired temperature. The catch? While the system could, indeed maintain a temperature, there was no way to raise the water temperature to the level that was to be maintained. That meant WPHS’ swim team had to practice elsewhere, a meet had to be canceled, and an auxiliary heater had to be purchased by the county.

In that case, CMTA did pay for an auxiliary heater. But mistakes made there will give Wood County officials good reason to keep an eye on the process here — and to make sure there is language in their agreement that holds the contractor fully financially responsible for similar errors.