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School District Saving Money with Natural Gas

The Mendon Upton Regional School District has taken a proactive step to lower their future utility costs with the conversion of two of their schools from oil to natural gas. New gas lines have been run by NStar utilities to the Clough Elementary and Memorial Elementary schools, allowing the buildings the ability to convert from oil to natural gas for heating, and from propane to natural gas for their cooking equipment.

During a May 21 School Committee Meeting, Superintendent Dr. Joseph Maruszczak gave a presentation on the potential cost savings to the district in making this conversion. Maruszczak said at the time that they were looking at a potential annual savings in fuel costs of $58,000 per building per year, but that although NStar was willing to dig the gas lines directly to the school wall at no cost, the district would be responsible for spending an estimated $70,000-$75,000 per school for new gas fired burners and on converting the kitchen equipment which is currently fueled by propane. Even with the up-front cost, Maruszczak said that the project would be about a year and half payback, which in his opinion was a "no-brainer."

Work for converting the 4 heating system burners (two in each school), and in installing the kitchen equipment converters in both schools was bid out to four different contractors and was awarded to the winning bidder Aalanco Service Corporation; the same company that was chosen to replace the boilers at the Miscoe Hill School for the Green School Repair Project.

MURSD's Business Manager Jay Byer said that the bids for the conversion came in "considerably less" than original projections, and instead of the original cost assumptions of $150,000 for both schools, the approved bid was for $90,876. "Using these new numbers, we are now anticipating a one-year payback for this project," said Byer.

Byer also said that the burners and kitchen equipment converters are on schedule to be replaced in the next few weeks and that they expect all of the work will be complete before the beginning of school, though there will be no visible changes to the staff or students regardless.

Byer said that completing this project is all about "long-term savings" for the district. "We are anticipating a 30-35 percent reduction in heating costs (from this conversion), plus eliminating the cost of the propane," he said.

During the initial discussions in May, Maruszczak explained why he was recommending this conversion by stating, "I see this as positioning the district well when looking at the structural deficit for FY14 and beyond."


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