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 Mendham Twp. - For a second year, the elementry and middle schools have been honored by the federal goverment for saving energy.
The schools were given the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) ENERGY STAR certification, Which signifies that the buildings perform in the top 25 percent of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency performance levels set by the EPA, said a statement. "

Through this achievement, we have demonstrated our commitment to environmental stewardship while also lowering our energy costs," said Schools Superintendent Kris Harrison.
 
Harrison said that through its partnership with School Energy Solutions, the district's energy consultant, the district has cut energy costs by more than $500,00 with all of the savings redirected to the classroom and to minimizing increases to the tax levy.

"School Energy Solutions has not only guided us to conserve energy, but has enabled us to operate our physical plants in a much more efficient manner," Harrison said.
Mendham Township, a New Jersey school district, has recently achieved a 30% reduction in their annual energy costs. During the next one to three years, this number is expected to increase to 35-40% as program recommendations focusing on short-term capital projects have been approved. The resulting savings are 3 times some recently reported efforts in the region.

Pamela Ranco, The Mendham Township School Business Administrator, initiated the program along with the former Superintendent of Schools Christine Johnson, the Mendham Township School Board, and Operations Committee Chair, George Davie.

The board carefully considered a variety of available options for their Schools Energy Savings Program. They chose Energy Design Solutions because of their innovative solutions and also because they are paid from savings achieved. EDS has become the only vendor that is paid from revenue they create.

“Enrolling the Mendham Township School district in a performance-based Schools Energy Savings Program with the nationally renowned firm Energy Design Solutions was the key,” states Pam Ranco, Business Administrator, “they welcomed our leadership and active participation, and we pay EDS a percentage of the savings that are created in comparison to our base year usage. There is no risk in fixed or hourly fees, and that’s especially important since we have such a large financial responsibility to our community.”

Energy Design Solutions, which maintains offices in the NY area, offers a national Schools Energy Savings Program specializing in both institutional and commercial facilities.

EDS earns their fee only when savings are achieved. Jim Downs, President of Energy Design Solutions, is committed to “finding practical, measurable solutions for saving energy.” Downs maintains a state-of-the-art energy efficient home and is currently proceeding with plans to complete a “Net Zero” office building.

EDS says their innovative solution for school buildings relies on their proprietary software and engineering experience, including a day-to-day “hands-on” approach, working closely with the school personnel at all levels to achieve success. Program savings to date have been accomplished through sound management and scheduling of Building Management systems, along with trouble-shooting and repair of certain vital building control components.

Energy Design Solutions readily gives kudos to Business Administrator Pam Ranco and the Mendham Township Facilities Managers, Frank Criscuollo and John Ragusa, who together have created one of the most energy efficient schools in the state of NJ.

Mendham believes that the key to their Energy Cost Management is that EDS “keeps score.” Pam Ranco adds, “We realized that unless we make the Energy Savings Program a permanent part of our business of running the school and keeping on track, we will never achieve long-term sustained results. Our main goal is to reduce our consumption and keep energy demand as low as possible and then seek alternative energy options when they become economical.”

Not only has Mendham Twp. achieved a 30% savings, most initial recommendations were paid out of their existing maintenance budget and will be paid back during the first year of the program. The district has recently approved, and is starting to implement, short term capital expenditures that will payback within the next 2 or 3 years. Not only are they saving money, but many have noted that climate comfort during the day has actually increased.

Regarding the schools environmental responsibility, Ranco states, “We are educating our children to conserve and recycle, and we realized we could do more to set an example.”

Contact Jim Downs, President, by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling 973-366-2444. School systems and businesses alike can enroll in a risk free energy savings program with EDS.
At a time when most Morris County public school districts are wondering if they budgeted enough money to cover rising energy costs for this coming school year, Mendham Township officials are actually looking at a $4,000 savings this summer.

They did it by installing one centralized control system for separate heating and cooling systems. When the township originally built additions to its two schools, each addition came with its own system.

Across Morris County, school districts are consolidating bus stops, increasing fees for field trips, charging families for courtesy busing and replacing older windows and lights with energy-efficient models. School officials are watching the fluctuating price of fuel and praying for a mild winter.

"No district budgeted for $4 a gallon," said Netcong's interim superintendent, Arthur DiBenedetto.

Washington Township has decided to increase what students are charged for the busing cost of field trips by $1. For a trip within the township, students will pay $3, for a halfday trip to an adjacent town it will be $5, and a full-day trip will cost $7.

The K-8 district also consolidated "a lot" of stops, said Paul Henry, transportation supervisor.

And still he expects that what they budgeted for busing will not cover this year's costs.

"Unless the price (of fuel) really goes down, we will probably need more money. I can't imagine what we budgeted will be sufficient," Henry said.

Although the price of fuel dropped below $4 a gallon the past two weeks, it's still much higher than it was nine months ago when the 2008-09 school budgets were created.

In June 2007, the Jefferson district was paying $2.11 a gallon for diesel in comparison with $3.79 a gallon this June, said Lynne Stanlick, Jefferson's transportation director.

Aside from taking the shortest routes, filling buses to capacity and limiting the number of stops without jeopardizing safety, there is little more that can be done, Stanlick said.

Last school year, Jefferson officials had budgeted $99,220 for bus fuel. They had to supplement that by $28,475, to cover the true cost. For this school year, they budgeted $141,000, said Dora Zeno, the K-12 district's business administrator.

The same was true for building energy costs. Last year, they transferred $336,000 into the account to cover costs. This year they've budgeted $1,551,000, up from the final cost the previous year of $1,489,000.

The district did take some preventive measures, replacing windows in two schools, lights in six schools and replacing a boiler that was beginning to show signs of trouble, Zeno said.

"Just like at home, you find the money at the expense of something else," Zeno said. "There's always a savings somewhere, something always gives."

Mendham Township officials found their savings in fuel for their buildings. Like many local districts, the township built additions to its two schools over the years and each addition came with its own heating and cooling system. Other than walking into 180 classrooms, there was no way to regulate the temperature across the entire building, said Pamela Ranco, district business administrator. Shutting off energy to entire buildings overnight or weekends was challenging, she said.


This year, the district signed a five-year contract with a Denville-based company, Energy   Design Solutions, to centralize operations using software that can also be accessed from home.   

Now, even on a snow day, she can disable the system so empty buildings aren't heated. This summer, rather than cooling the entire school building, only the central offices were cooled, she said.

That resulted in a $4,000 energy savings, she said. The Denville company is paid from the savings. In the first year, the company receives 35 percent of the district's savings.

"That's fantastic these days," Ranco said of the savings. "Fuel costs are rising, we have tighter and tighter budgets ... we have to find any way to either increase money coming in or reduce spending."

DiBenedetto was considering a program similar to Mendham Township's that would be paid through the energy savings. He had a company guaranteeing to replace a boiler, insulation and lights with the costs paid by the energy savings. The repayment was spread out over 15 years. But DiBenedetto is frustrated that he can't do it immediately because state law requires capital projects financed for more than five years ago before the voters for approval.  

Likewise, the Chesters have been interested in solar energy projects, but those, too, typically require a longer repayment period. Energy efficiency projects are not exactly considered sexy projects by voters, administrators said.

In Long Hill, school officials decided last year that courtesy busing was a luxury they could no longer afford. The K-8 district is charging $300 per student for the school year, with a $750 maximum charge per family.

About 400 students were taking advantage of courtesy busing previously but only half decided to remain on the bus, said Superintendent Rene Rovtar.

Mendham Township, which handles busing for other districts, including Mendham Borough, West Morris Regional and some private schools, raised its hourly busing fees by 5 percent and busing for field trips by 6 percent.

If the budget becomes really tight toward the end of the school year, field trips that take township students far outside the area will be reconsidered, Ranco said.

And now that Mendham Township has a more energy-efficient heating and cooling system, the district is looking into sensors for classooms that would shut off lights if no movement occurs during a certain amount of time.

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