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Letter: Congratulations Floral Park Voters

The $5 million bond referendum put forth by the Floral Park-Bellerose UFSD was voted down. There is no question that much of the work proposed needs to be done, including upgrading and/or replacing boilers; major roof replacement work; wiring upgrades (although possibly a different scope than presented); drainage; and masonry/brick repairs.

It must be noted that the boilers did not age overnight. It has been stated by the B.O.E. that one of these boilers is 70 years old. To present this to voters as an “emergency” is a transparent effort to disguise their lack of planning as a safety issue. The need for new boilers is not a new issue.

Right now, much of this work is considered ‘aidable’ by SED (the New York State Education Department), although given the current state of New York State finances, it is virtually certain that the present 44.5 percent aid that is projected by Floral Park-Bellerose UFSD to be received for capital projects in our district will not be available.

Companies called ESCOs or Energy Services Companies are able to fund large portions of this capital work from the energy savings they generate. It has been stated as in the presentation that the estimated fuel savings if the boilers were replaced, would be $40,000/year. Assuming that number is approximately correct, the state would allow a loan of $720,000 to be repaid by the savings. SED allows an 18-year simple payback. This may not pay for all the boiler work, but this one item alone would allow the amount of the bond to be reduced by $720,000.

Some other common energy saving items that ESCOs generally look at are: lighting upgrades (generally about a three- to five-year payback which can help fund many other longer payback items such as roofs and boilers); occupancy sensors for lighting so that lights only come on when rooms are in use; daylighting controls which can turn down classroom lights closest to windows when the sun brings in adequate lighting, or in hallways on sunny days when adequate light is present; L.E.D. lighting; steam trap replacement (so that radiators are only using steam when they need it); window film (slowing heat loss at windows); weather stripping (at exterior doors and windows) “Night Setback” controls for boilers so that buildings are only heated to a mandated comfort level when occupied by students, not all night long; and zone heating controls so that large areas such as gymnasiums or auditoriums are only heated when occupied.

Any of these types of things that are currently being performed directly by the school should be stopped as soon as possible to maximize the financeable savings and attain the maximum free capital improvements. The word free is used because the work is paid for with the same money that would otherwise have been budgeted for energy. Even using an ESCO, a bond will still be required, but for far less than the $5 million originally stated for this scope of work.

My experience leads me to believe that we could reduce our needed $5 million bond by $2 million or more. Again, this $2 million (estimate only) is free. I have heard these companies faulted because they are “for profit.” Our country was built on capitalism, and these companies have a financial incentive to find their potential clients the most savings they can. And they guarantee the savings.

An RFP (Request For Proposal) is put out by an architect or engineer that is hired by the district, and put out for competitive bid. The resulting responses from prospective bidders are then received, reviewed, and a successful bidder is chosen. Only at this point can the district truly understand their potential savings.

My services have been offered (free of charge — of course) to our B.O.E. in the past, but they did not want my input. Last week’s vote should be a wake up call to our B.O.E. They must consider what 70 percent of other districts on Long Island already have, the use of an ESCO to fund capital improvements through energy savings.

It’s good for our wallets, and it’s good for the planet that our children will inherit. I offer my services to the B.O.E. again, this time publicly. I am willing to meet with the B.O.E., their architect, finance officer as well as a member of an ESCO, and at least two registered voters from our village of my choosing.

I am a NYS-Licensed Professional Engineer (since 1985), A LEED AP (Accredited from the USGBC - United States Green Building Council). I have been in the construction industry, specifically the HVAC (Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning) sector for over 30 years. I have been in charge of installing heating systems in facilities like Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, The Long Island College Hospital, Mt. Sinai, The New York State Psychiatric Center, and countless other major facilities.

My family has lived in Floral Park since 1935. I have performed volunteer work for the community for well over a decade. I love the place I live, and want to do what I can to make sure our community, and our schools are well maintained and energy efficient.

I insist that our B.O.E. seriously looks into this financing vehicle. Whatever efforts may have been made so far were half-hearted at best.

Jim Joinnides, P.E. LEED AP

Floral Park