BKW cuts fuel use by half

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s maintenance department has cut the district’s average annual fuel consumption nearly in half since 2000.

At last week’s school board meeting, BKW Maintenance Supervisor Peter Shunney presented his annual report to the board, which included a list of cost- and energy-saving measures taken by the maintenance department.

Between the years of 2000 and 2004, fuel-use averaged 79,475 gallons per year by the elementary and secondary schools combined. In the 2007-08 school year, fuel costs for both schools were down to a combined 46,500 gallons per year.

“We’re really excited,” Shunney said. “Our department’s worked hard because we like to save the taxpayers money, especially now, with fuel costs. We started this back when fuel wasn’t so expensive, so now it’s even better.”

BKW also participates in the state’s EnergySmart Schools program, which creates a benchmark for energy use in schools across the state.

“We, along with many schools in New York State, participate in an audit once a year,” said Shunney. “We get back information on our own school, plus a comparison with all other schools in the state.”

The latest figures show each BKW school spending $1.45 per square foot on energy; the statewide average is $1.56 per square foot. “As you can see,” Shunney said, “we’re 11 cents below the statewide average per square foot.”

Combined electrical consumption at the two schools has also been reduced from 752,760 kilowatt-hours in the 2001-02 school year, to 682,640 kilowatt-hours last year.

Shunney has supervised the maintenance department for about six years. The plan to overhaul the district’s energy use started somewhere between six months and a year later, he said. The business administrator, then Gregory Diefenbach, told Shunney to make the energy-saving plan a top priority.

“The school board at the time was very interested in trying to initiate energy saving measures, so we started working on it then,” he said. “Fortunately, they had the foresight to do that early, and now we’re reaping benefits of it.” But BKW didn’t do it alone.

“I solicited advice from our contractors,” Shunney said. Representatives from Johnson Controls, Inc., Trojan Energy Services, and Stants Combustion Associates, Inc. took a close look at the buildings, pointing out areas that they felt needed improvement. “We try to find contractors that are willing to share information with us and teach us things as opposed to simply coming in and doing work,” said Shunney.


Shunney’s maintenance report lists a number of measures taken to save money and conserve energy.

The district now purchases electricity with the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which encompasses 140 schools and 20 municipalities purchasing together to cut spending.

BKW also participates in a Capital Region BOCES bid for custodial supplies, in which it bids with Middleburgh, Schoharie, Duanesburg, and Schalmont.

Last year, the district spent $364.50 on computer and monitor disposal, at 25 cents per pound. Now, BKW shares a disposal service with the town of Berne at no cost.

It also shares salt storage with Berne, allowing the district to buy salt in bulk, rather than bagged. The cost is $41 per ton in bulk, rather than $150 per ton bagged; that’s $1,435 a year instead of $3,750. The district buys about 35 tons of salt, using about 25 tons and leaves the rest for the town. “It’s all road salt, used for parking lots and sidewalks,” Shunney said.

Lighting changes are being made in the schools to conserve energy. This has involved replacing multi-vapor bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which Shunney says are more energy efficient. The maintenance crew is also testing high-output T8 lighting in the gym, which uses less electricity and produces higher quality lighting than multi-vapor bulbs, he said.

The report catalogued a number of building improvements, which included the re-tiling of ceilings, installation of new flooring, rehabilitation of the elementary school’s gymnasium, repairing aging wall cabinets, and the abatement of asbestos.

The asbestos removal was “quite extensive, especially in the basement of the elementary school,” Shunney said. “We did remove all of it in that basement so we could create a storage space down there, but there’s still quite a bit left in the buildings. We generally remove it as needed to perform maintenance on pipes.” He said a lot of old buildings were built with asbestos.

“You know, the price of fuel was around a dollar per gallon when this whole thing started,” Shunney said. “The savings have grown significantly over the last few years with the difference in oil costs.”

Other business

In other business, the school board:

— Voted unanimously to appoint Carolyn Anderson and Vasilios Lefkaditis as members of the district’s budget advisory committee;

— Unanimously passed the Title I Parent Involvement Policy, allowing parental participation in the development of Title I programs, which provide services for disadvantaged children; and

— Unanimously approved a revision of the district’s professional development plan, which, according to the mission statement, is designed to “develop, incorporate and implement programs, concepts, and practices that aim to increase student learning and growth, improve methods of teaching, and enhance professional learning in an effort to motivate and inspire both teachers and students.”

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