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Hammond school plans over $1 million in improvements

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HAMMOND – Hammond Central School is planning a $1.4 million school improvement project geared towards cutting energy costs, increasing efficiency and beefing up school security.

The bulk of the improvements will focus on a new 150 kilowatt solar-electric installation project to offset energy costs.

School Superintendent Douglas H. McQueer said Thursday the school “kicked the idea around for a little bit,” until it received projected savings data from several solar companies.

The school spent roughly $38,500 on electricity from July 2011 to June 2012, Mr. McQueer said. The district plans to decrease those costs by at least 6 percent with the new solar-electric power source.

“The rate of return is nothing,” Mr. McQueer said. “We anticipate it will take seven to eight years to pay off.”

The project includes the replacement of a damaged blade on the school’s windmill. Mr. McQueer anticipates its energy bills will rise by about $2,000 this year with its windmill out of commission.

The school also plans to cut energy costs with the purchase of a new outdoor freezer for its food stores.

“Our current indoor freezer is almost 30 years old,” Mr. McQueer said. “It eats electricity. We anticipate saving half our energy costs with the outdoor freezer.”

To increase efficiency, the school plans to work with the village and town install computerized shared fuel tank depots.

In an effort to increase security, the school board plans make the school accessible through the front door only. New locks and a buzzer will be installed at the front door in response to the recent attacks at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Mr. McQueer said.

“Right now, we are not set up well for lockdown situations, so we have to get to that point where we’ll be set and ready,” he said.

A new front parking lot will also be constructed, Mr. McQueer said.

Once the project is approved by district residents, the district will apply for state funding and grants through agencies such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

A portion of the school’s fund balance will pay the remaining difference. While he said he is not sure of the amount of funding the school will receive for the project, Mr. McQueer does not anticipate the school’s portion will be over $1 million.

“We don’t plan on going above the 2 percent tax levy limit at this point,” Mr. McQueer said. “Fortunately, we don’t have the same concerns as some schools. We’re lucky we haven’t had to dip into our reserves yet. Financially, we are in good shape so long as state aid keeps coming at the same rates.”

The school received roughly $120,000 increase in aid this year, Mr. McQueer said. The school’s fund balance at the beginning of the year was $279,000.

The school also cuts costs by sharing transportation services with Morristown for its daily runs to the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services Northwest Technical Center, Ogdensburg, and for school food pickups in Malone.

“There’s always major concerns about funding,” Mr. McQueer said. “Retirement and health care costs are the two biggest things that hurt us. We think we’re in pretty good shape for at least the next five to seven years.”

The $1,403,162 project will be voted on by district residents from 1:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 12.

“We’re hoping to be able to begin work on the projects in the fall of this year,” Mr. McQueer said. “Architects will submit plans to the State Education Department and must wait for the okay before we go to bid. We hope to have many of the projects completed a year from this summer.”

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