The Syosset Board of Education decided to postpone a final decision on an energy conservation project at Monday's Board of Education meeting.
The energy company Siemens presented an energy savings plan with similar provisions to that of Johnson Controls, who presented at the last meeting.
Siemens' proposal included lighting retrofits, energy management system upgrades, heating plant upgrades, roof upgrades, and water conservation. The proposal would cost $17 million with money coming back to the district over 18 years. The project would also be open to phasing, where the district could choose which upgrades to execute first.
The intricacies of the project sent up red flags with several board members who asked about ensuring LIPA rebates, staying up with technology as the project progresses, the company's experience on Long Island, and the specifics of taking the project in phases.
Board members questioned representatives for nearly 30 minutes before President Michael Cohen voiced concern over how quickly the decision would be made.
"This is potentially $20 million when everyone's broke, we know taxes are going up, we've had faculty with frozen salaries for a year and a half," said Cohen. "How were we supposed to vote on this tonight without ever hearing from another company?"
Echoing that concern were several members of the community who offered advice and warnings to the board during Audience to the Public.
"There are a tremendous amount of opportunities [for the project]," said Jimmy Carchietta, an energy analyst who offered services free of charge to the district to organize an Energy Star benchmark. "It's important to weigh out all the options and see where the savings are."
"We need more education, and where better to look than the experts in this community," said Jeffrey Lafazan. "They can give information in the same way that lobbyists give information to senators…Their only motivation is to help."
David Cassidy, a long time HVAC contractor, also offered his consultation and vouched for the character of both Johnson Controls and Siemens. However, he warned against rushing into the vote.
"For that enormous amount of money, I just want to make sure our dollars are well spent."
District architect John Grillo and representatives from both Johnson Controls and Siemans all confirmed that though some districts take longer than others, the time spent researching and planning energy projects before executing them averages around 18 months.
Both Johnson Controls and Siemens representatives agreed they would work with the district further as they considered both proposals. Each company agreed to explore a phasing approach to the project where the district could prioritize which improvements to make first rather than going through with an entire project all at once.
Ultimately, the board agreed to table the decision until more research could be done.
Though the choice of project has been put off, a roof for Syosset High School is "a given," according to Superintendent Carole Hankin. Regardless of the road the board decides to take, the roof has to be repaired.
"We can either raise taxes, we can do a bond, or we can go into [an energy program]," she said at the meeting, adding that going into an energy program is not a part of the tax levy cap and would have a lesser impact on taxpayers.
Emergency repairs were done with the help of FEMA funds after Hurricane Sandy but the repairs are temporary and in need of a permanent solution, said Grillo. The board agreed to put the search for a solution to the damaged roof at the forefront of their concerns.
MSG Varsity and Fios to Join District
Syosset will get the best of both broadcasting worlds, as board members decided that instead of choosing between MSG Varsity and Verizon Fios to broadcast sports, clubs, and other functions, they would agree to take on both companies.
Both Fios and MSG will have the ability to cover the district, with MSG getting first pick of coverage.
Finance Committee Approved
The board voted in favor of creating a district finance committee.
"As you've noticed, these meetings have been taking longer and longer," said trustee Chris DiFilippo. "This committee could review requests, budgets, source out information…and present it to the board to streamline the process."
The committee, which may be selected through an application process, would get together to analyze financial questions and issues and report back to the board with findings.
District to Get Facebook
Board members voted in favor of creating a district Facebook page to be used in emergency situations.
Addressing concerns raised at the December board meeting, the board agreed that the page would be a read-only version where only those with administrative privileges could post updates on the page. It will begin as an emergency information page and will only be used in special circumstances, though the board discussed eventually using it to promote the goings on in the district.
The district has not yet announced when the page will be created.