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OSFC update on energy efficiency

The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) Thursday heard an update on an internal study to improve the commission’s energy efficiency program, also known as the HB264 program.Ramzi Najjar, the energy services manager at the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, said the mission of the study was to improve the review and recommendation process for projects that are brought to the OSFC by school districts and to see if any additional actions need to be taken by OSFC to strength the program. Under the program, school districts can make energy efficiency improvements to buildings, and then use the savings to pay for those improvements, as long as sufficient savings come within a 15-year period.  He said recommendations the study will likely make when completed include requiring performance-based contracts and energy guarantees from energy savings companies that propose improvements to districts.“We think this would really hold everybody accountable,” Najjar said. “Specifically, the energy service companies that are proposing [the savings].”The recommendations also include giving the commission discretion to consider the impact of a project on a district’s other OSFC programs. Najjar that comes from concerns the commission has had over the past few years, and noted situations where a district that has completed a construction program is initiating a HB264 program within a few years, and also noted questions about doing an HB264 project on a building that will likely be demolished within a few years under a construction program. Finally, he said a recommendation will include approvals for a district in fiscal or academic emergency.He noted other procedure changes they are still exploring, such as requiring the involvement of OSFC energy staff early in a project, saying the process can be improved when communication begins early. Another possible change would be to limit the inclusion of deferred maintenance items to make sure it doesn’t deviate from the intent of finding energy saving measures, and not having school districts pass resolutions to approve an HB264 project until the OSFC review of that project is completed.The commission did not take any action on those proposals during Thursday’s meeting. In other action, the commission approved amendments and FY13 segmented projects in a number of school districts, including Columbus City Schools, Athens City Schools, Elyria City Schools, Pickerington Local Schools, and Ross Local Schools in Butler County. The OSFC also approved a revised policy for the commission’s segmented project program. David Chovan, chief operating officer for the commission, explained that the changes reduces the minimum segment size from 4 percent to 2 percent of a district’s tax valuation, prorates maintenance obligations to require only facilities under a segment project, and requires a new project agreement for subsequent segments rather than an amendment to a previous agreement. Many of the changes are in response to changes approved by the 129th General Assembly.
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