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During a special called meeting of the Grady County Board of Education Tuesday morning the board chairman and school superintendent were authorized to execute a $14.5 million contract with ABM Building Solutions LLC for facility upgrades at all county schools, which are expected to result in major energy savings.
There was no additional discussion of the contract vote, which followed months of talk and deliberations not only by the board members, but also the school system’s administrative staff. Grady County School System attorney Thomas L. Lehman also signed off on the contract, officials say.
The most recent discussion of the contract was held during a called meeting on March 26. The board met then with Rick Higginbotham, Ray Jordan and Joel Lowery of ABM and the trio was back in Cairo Tuesday to answer any additional questions.
“I am grateful to the Board of Education for approving the ABM contract this morning. The work that will be completed in the system over the next year will bring our lighting, heating and heating and air units, and other energy using devices up to date. The savings generated from the new units will make the majority of the payments on the debt. I am also excited about the new security cameras that will be installed in all of the schools. The cameras that we currently have in the schools are old technology. We will be able to monitor what happens at all of our schools much better,” Grady County Schools Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard said.
Through a “Guaranteed Energy Savings Contract” with ABM, the school system is looking to replace nearly 60 percent of the school system’s HVAC units, or 408 of 746 that have passed their useful life and in need of replacement.
According to Grady County School System officials, all HVAC units 2006 and older will be replaced. The cost of the replacement of HVAC units, alone, is nearly $6 million.
In short, Gilliard said, the system is financing up to $14,594,240 over a 20-year term and the debt will be paid by the guaranteed savings from reduced energy and operational costs, plus $125,000 annually from the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. After five years, the board could elect to pay the debt in full and reduce its interest expense.
If the school system were to decide not to pay off the debt early, Ray Jordan of ABM noted at the March 26 called meeting that the school system would have $14.5 million in improvements to its facilities for only $2.5 million of new, out-of-pocket money.
According to Gilliard, a kick-off meeting will be held in approximately four weeks and ABM personnel will begin work soon after. The superintendent says the work will continue into the new school term, but he said that work would be done after hours so that it would not interfere with the instructional day.
Through the ABM contract, all lighting in county school facilities will be upgraded to LED, which is more energy efficient and the bulbs last 10 years.
New plumbing fixtures that conserve water will be installed along with pedal valves in school cafeteria kitchens to reduce the cost of heating water.
School facilities will be weather-proofed to eliminate wasted heating and cooling of buildings and to make the facilities better insulated.
ABM and Grady County School System officials have identified humidity as an issue in school buildings.
Also included in the scope of the project is central energy management controls that provide for remote access and monitoring of lights and HVAC systems. The new control system will also alert school food service personnel if equipment fails to maintain required food temperatures.
Dyson hand dryers will be installed in all schools, greatly reducing the need for paper towels, trash bags and plumbing issues caused by paper towels flushed down toilets.
A lightning alert system will also be put in at Cairo High School as part of the overall project and a transformer upgrade at Washington Middle School will take place.
In addition, 304 new security cameras in county schools will be installed and a SMALLab STEM learning center will be created at a location yet to be determined.
The program also includes two years of preventive maintenance on all HVAC equipment and one year of preventive maintenance on the electronic controls.
Work is projected to be completed in May 2020, but the system’s first principal and interest payment on the debt is not due until May 2021.
In other business Tuesday morning, the board voted unanimously to validate the results of the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum. This is a step toward fulfilling all obligations before general obligation bonds can be issued in order to accelerate the start date for beginning ESPLOST funded projects. Without the issuance of bonds, which will be paid off with sales tax proceeds, the school system would have to delay projects until sufficient tax collections accumulated. Voters, in approving the one percent sales tax, also authorized the school system to issue bonds up to $7 million with the bonds being paid for through sales tax proceeds over the course of the six-year term of the tax.