The Wiscasset School Department’s proposed energy conservation performance contract with Siemens Inc., which recently came under fire from the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen, will move forward after the Wiscasset School Committee’s Thursday, Dec. 15 meeting.
The school committee voted unanimously to authorize Superintendent Heather Wilmot to enter into a contract with Siemens Inc. for energy-efficient improvements to school buildings and to secure financing for the project, with the principal amount not to exceed $1.75 million.
Wilmot is negotiating with two financial institutions for a 15-year loan and has locked in an interest rate of either 3.6 percent or 3.3 percent, which will remain good through January, as the details for the contract are hammered out, she said.
The energy conservation project, which includes replacing lighting, windows, a furnace, and controls, among other work, at the elementary school, middle high school, and central office, will be funded in the 2017-2018 budget year, Wilmot said.
Initial projections estimate the project will result in a net budget increase of $50,000-$60,000 a year, with the majority of the loan payments funded through the energy savings that will result from the work.
Wilmot presented the proposal to the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen the previous week. Selectmen harshly criticized the project. Selectmen questioned Wilmot about how the school department could enter into a million-dollar contract without first seeking voter approval.
School committee member Jason Putnam was present for the selectmen’s meeting where the energy conservation project came under fire. Putnam commended Wilmot for the professionalism of her presentation, despite being “subjected to untrue statements and allegations” from selectmen, he said.
Putnam apologized to representatives from Siemens Inc., who also attended the meeting, for the way in which they were treated by selectmen. “It was embarrassing,” Putnam said.
The projected increase in the facilities and maintenance budget as a result of the loan payment will go before voters twice for approval. The school department’s 2017-2018 budget, which is in the initial stage of development, will go through an open town hall-style meeting in May before being placed on the warrant for the June town meeting.
The energy conservation performance contract, which acts like a lease-purchase agreement, includes a non-appropriation clause which ties loan payments to voter authorization of the funds, according to a Siemens representative.
School committee Chair Michael Dunn encouraged increased public participation in the school committee’s budget-setting process. “I want to thank the public for the opportunity to do this job and thank Heather for the job she does,” Dunn said.
“Hopefully, people will come to the meetings, stay informed, and see that we’re here to serve them and the people of Wiscasset,” Dunn said.