​School Board Considers Converting Schools to LED Lighting

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Converting the Franklin County schools to LED lighting “would reduce your electric bills by enough to pay for the project,” Scotty Caroom, with the Excel Energy Group (EEG), told the Franklin County School Board at the Nov. 13 meeting. Based on lighting energy-use records from Duck River Electric, the school system would save $93,000 annually, Caroom said. The school system qualified for 100 percent funding from the Energy Efficient School Initiative (EESI) and a $30,000 grant from TVA, according to Caroom, making the annual payment $85,000, yielding a net savings of $7, 600.
EEG’s proposal called for upgrading all school system lighting except the two middle schools and the ball fields. “Ball fields don’t pay off,” Caroom said. The middle schools are slated to be replaced by a consolidated middle school.
The school system’s outstanding debt for upgrading to fluorescent lighting, which has 4.5 percent interest rate, would be absorbed into the new 1 percent interest loan, Caroom said. The new loan would have a 10-year term. The EEG proposal carries a 10-year warranty on parts and labor.
The switch to LED lighting would cut the school systems lighting-related electricity usage by 50-60 percent. Pointing to another advantage, Caroom said LED lights had a 20-25 year life span compared to 8-10 years for fluorescent lights.
Caroom said the Giles County School system chose to do the LED conversion themselves, drawing on the school system’s fund balance. Most school systems “don’t have the free money or the man power” to undertake the project on their own, he said. “I’ve never seen a county commission deny approval for an EEG conversion to LED. You’re not asking for new money. With the EESI loan, there’s no money up front.”
“What rationale would allow the board to bypass the competitive procurement process?” asked Sewanee school board representative Adam Tucker. “Typically, there would be invitations to bid.”
Caroom explained that “Under Tennessee state statute for school districts for projects whose purpose is energy conservation measures, both the engineering and the materials are procured the same as professional services, and with that you can select a qualified provider of your choosing.”
The school system has five more payments on the current 4.5 percent loan, with the next payment due April 1. “In order for the payment to be absorbed into the new loan, the LED retrofit needs to be installed by then,” Caroom said.
“If we decide we’re prepared to act on this in December, we could take it to the county commission in January,” said Board Chair Cleijo Walker.
“We’ll do what we can to accommodate you,” Caroom said. “It will take four weeks to get the materials and five to six weeks to do the installation. We need about two and half months lead time.”
Revisiting a question regarding the Special Use of School Vehicles policy which stated “School buses may be used only for the transportation of school personnel on authorized school business,” Assistant Superintendant Linda Foster recommended revising the policy to allow both school employees as well as others on official school business to use the buses. The board approved the change.
The board also approved minor verbiage changes in several Instructional Program policies. Board member Chris Guess questioned the name of the Advanced College Placement policy which allows gifted high school seniors “to complete the 12th grade at a participating institution of higher learning.” Guess said the name invited confusion with advancement placement classes taken within the high school setting to earn college credit.
Foster will consult with the Tennessee School Board Association about the name confusion.
The board meets next for a work session on Dec. 4.