Columbia Gas of Ohio, Inc. will extend a natural gas line down Navarre Avenue to Jerusalem Elementary School, which will save tens of thousands of dollars in heating costs to the Oregon City Schools district.
At a meeting last month, the school board approved a line extension agreement with Columbia to install the line.
“We had an energy audit done a couple of years ago,” said Dean Sandwisch, the district’s business manager. It is more expensive to heat Jerusalem Elementary School, which currently uses fuel oil and propane, than any other school in the district.
The average cost to heat the school, he said, is about $52,500 per year.
“There’s a tremendous potential to have a savings on average of about $40,000 per year by bringing natural gas out to there,” said Sandwisch. “Our current natural gas line stops at Eisenhower Middle School. So we would have to bring it out the rest of the way.”
The cost to extend the line, he said, is a little over $304,000.
“But again, our payback is $40,000 per year. If no one else taps into that line, it’s about a seven and a half year payback. Columbia Gas reached out to residents and businesses. More likely, there will be people who tap into that. So it could be as little as a four year payback. It’s a good deal for us to save money in our general fund,” said Sandwisch.
If residents or businesses tap into the line, the cost to the district is less.
The $304,000 cost, which Columbia considers a deposit, will be used to complete the work on the line, estimated to occur in late winter or early spring, said Sandwisch.
Board President P.J. Kapfhammer said the extension of the line is just another step towards becoming more energy efficient in the district.
“We know we’re spending almost four times the amount we need to. More importantly, if you look at all the schools, we’re very energy efficient. It’s an investment that will save the taxpayer money down the road. I know $304,000 sounds like a lot, but it’s not. It’s not something we’re looking to spend, but if we don’t, we’re not being fiscally responsible to the community or our system,” said Kapfhammer.
Sandwisch said costs to the district would have jumped from $304,000 to $444,000 had the board waited until the first of the year to extend the line because Columbia Gas is increasing its linear foot rate.
Money from the permanent improvement fund will pay for the line, said Treasurer Jane Fruth.
“This is money we put aside by being fiscally responsible,” said Kapfhammer. “We have had it sitting there. It’s not being taken from any of the children. It’s great for the district.”
Sandwisch said he looked at other energy alternatives to heat Jerusalem Elementary, including geothermal and biomass renewable energy systems.
“Geothermal is just not good in retro fits. It’s good for new builds. So it immediately was shut down as being way too expensive to retrofit. Biomass, honestly, was the lead in my book for a long time. We went to Canton to look at a biomass system. Biomass is simply wood waste. It’s about 10 percent the cost of natural gas. We have supply around here that could definitely supply us. But the engineering, the boiler and storage, was so expensive, that it just knocked itself out of contention. So this was the best choice,” said Sandwisch.