Platte County R-3 considering energy savings plan to pay for upgrades

The Platte County R-3 Board of Education will decide this month whether the district will move forward with a substantial renovation project aimed at paying for system and facility upgrades by reducing energy consumption costs. During the Thursday, Nov. 19 session, board members heard an energy audit report from Navitas of Olathe, Kan., which the district contracted with over the summer. Navitas found R-3 to be slightly above average in terms of energy consumption but identified numerous areas for improvement that would allow the district to save enough money to finance about $5.5 million worth of improvements.

In theory, the improvements create the savings to allow for financing of the initial work.

Navitas guarantees its work and pays for the difference if savings are not realized. In addition, the cost of the audit are included in the estimate presented, provided the district moves forward with the work. If not, the district would owe Navitas for the work done during the audit, which took place in the first part of the school year.

“Ultimately, at the end of the day, if we don’t achieve our savings, we end up writing you a check back so you can pay to upgrade your facilities,” said Koby Kampschroeder of Navitas. “So there is a guarantee that goes along with the program.”

Most of the suggested improvements are fully paid for through the savings realized, and the rest is more than covered by the sum.

In all, Navitas estimates that R-3 would save about $375,000 total over 15 years but does not include one-time capital costs avoided (total of about $840,000). While not a big chunk of the district’s annual budget, superintendent Dr. Mike Reik said that the increased benefit would be from taking on projects that would otherwise have to be covered by the capital improvement fund.

This frees up that money to be used on other basic annual repairs.

“Our district is vastly growing,” Platte County director of technology and operations Robert Hedgcorth said. “We’re building new elementaries, but we’re also changing the way old buildings look. When we did this project, we were very cognizant of what our long-range plan was.”

Navitas takes into account suggested organizational and behavioral changes in addition to the technology.

Suggested improvements included upgrading all lighting — interior and exterior — at all buildings to LED. There would also be replacement HVAC units on the roofs of Platte County High School, Barry School and Siegrist Elementary, accounting for 56 of the 115 across all buildings. In addition, dampers will be upgraded across the board to help better control heating/cooling air flow to make it more equitable and prevent wastage.

Water efficiency changes (mainly sinks) will happen at all schools, while even replacing the ice machines in five buildings will help create savings. There will also be weatherization upgrades to all buildings, helping to seal air flow along doors, windows and roof lines.

If approved, work could start in February and run through the start of the following school year. Navitas then does a follow-up period to verify and ensure savings.

Kampschroeder said there’s a negative initial cash flow for the first five years or so before the numbers start to turn around. He also said that savings increase each year based on estimated increase in utility costs, which Navitas put in at about 3 percent annually.