Energy-Efficient Projects at Local Schools Underway

By Beacon Staff

Work is underway to complete several energy-efficiency projects at Flathead County schools as part of the state’s Quick Start Energy Grant Program, which is funded by federal stimulus money and was implemented by the 2009 Legislature.

More than $500,000 has been invested through the program in Flathead County, including $285,000 at Kalispell schools. Half of the Kalispell money is to install a new boiler at Elrod Elementary School, along with the requisite piping. The other half is to install new windows and for vestibule work at Russell Elementary School.

Chuck Cassidy, director of facilities and transportation for the Kalispell school district, said the deadline to complete the projects is Sept. 30. Any work after that must be funded by the district.

Cassidy said making the deadline will be a close call for two main reasons: one is that the money wasn’t awarded until this summer and the other is that obtaining material took awhile. But Cassidy said the district has a building reserve fund, if necessary. In any case, he figures both projects will be completed by early October at the latest.

“It’s an older boiler; it’s time,” Cassidy said. “The energy efficiency of those older boilers is just not what it is now.”

The district, Cassidy said, applied for grants for other projects as well, but they didn’t come through. In total, the Quick Start Energy Grant Program awarded nearly $15 million to schools across the state: $12.2 million for energy-efficiency projects and $2.7 million for energy audits. Audits assess how much energy a building uses, while evaluating what can be done to make it more energy efficient.

Other Quick Start projects in the county include $167,000 for a geothermal heat pump at the Olney-Bissell School, $73,000 for windows and doors at Bigfork High School and $59,000 for windows, insulation and thermostats at Marion Elementary School. The Eureka school district received $353,516 for window and lighting upgrades.

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