Efficiency Maine Helps Brighten More than 50 Maine Public Schools with Incentives to Support Lighting Upgrades

More than 50 Maine public schools are upgrading the quality of their interior and exterior lighting through a special Efficiency Maine initiative.

The principal goal of Efficiency Maine’s School Lighting Retrofit initiative is to reduce electric energy consumption from Maine K-12 municipal schools and to accelerate the conversion to efficient LED lighting. The offer supported project work for electricians and encouraged schools to complete the lighting conversions over the 2020 summer while school buildings are unoccupied.

“We were very glad to see broad participation stretching from Kittery to Calais to the County,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of the Efficiency Maine Trust.

Eligible electrical efficiency lighting retrofit projects include interior and exterior lighting upgrades in classrooms, hallways, lobbies, entryways, stairways, auditoriums, libraries, cafeterias, offices, gymnasiums, parking lots, and public restrooms.

“This grant program will help 50 schools across the state to have better lighting while conserving energy and reducing costs,” said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “This initiative not only helps our state meet its energy goals, but it allows schools to use the savings to support students and teachers in other important ways.”

Limestone Community School in Limestone is among the schools that has benefited from the incentive program. The school received more than $38,000 in incentives to upgrade lighting in its classrooms, auditorium, library, offices, bathrooms and parking lot. The school will see an estimated annual savings of more than $19,000 (129,975 kWh) and will realize a return on investment in an estimated 2.3 years.

 According to Superintendent Bill Dobbins, they are elated with the results and already have received inquiries from other district schools interested in pursuing similar projects.

“We viewed this project as a way to create a better atmosphere for the educational growth of our children,” explained Dobbins. “Efficiency Maine’s School Lighting Retrofit program enabled us to combine and accelerate two projects that our budget alone couldn’t accommodate in the same year. We were able to complete it using less money from Limestone taxpayers and while the children weren’t in school. We’re hoping the new brighter, uniform lighting will make it easier for them to do their schoolwork. In the meantime, we’ve already heard from our local police department that it’s easier for them to patrol the school grounds because the exterior lighting is so improved.”

St. John Valley Technology Center in Frenchville is equally satisfied. The school contributed approximately $20,000 to the project and Efficiency Maine contributed $13,000 to upgrade lighting in its entryways, hallways, and gyms. The school will see an estimated annual savings of nearly $7,000 (46,163 kWh) and will realize a return on investment in an estimated 2.8 years.

“There’s no question, improving lighting enhances the ability of students to learn,” said Kevin Lavoie, director of St. John Valley Technology Center. “We’re reducing our carbon footprint because LED lighting is more energy efficient. This program also has reduced the tax burden on our community and has created jobs for Maine’s workforce. That’s a triple win as far as we’re concerned. In addition, we’re especially pleased we could complete the project this summer.”

Songo Locks Elementary School and the Educational Services building for the Lake Region Vocational Center in Naples have brighter futures, as well. Together, the schools received more than $10,000 in incentives to upgrade exterior lighting and will see an estimated annual savings of more than $5,000 (39,481 kWh).

 Andrew Madura, director of Transportation, Facilities and Food Services for Naples schools, is confident the projects will help the schools save money and energy. Two years ago, Madura managed an interior lighting project using incentives from Efficiency Maine, which resulted in a 20% to 25% reduction in energy consumption for those measures.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to be more efficient,” explained Madura. “With a limited budget, this program was very helpful. We were able to complete both projects without allocating additional capital funds. It has particularly benefited the Educational Services building, which houses our buses and equipment. The exterior lighting at the building is on constantly in the evenings for security purposes, making the energy consumption fairly high.

“The nighttime staff have noticed and appreciate the improved lighting,” said Madura. “Aesthetically, it’s much more attractive. It’s also more controlled lighting, ensuring that our residential neighbors don’t experience light spill. Overall, we now have better lighting that requires less maintenance and uses less energy. To me, that’s an efficiency trifecta.”

Louis DiFrederico, facilities manager for the Millinocket School Department, managed projects at Stearns Junior – Senior High School and Granite Street Elementary School. DiFrederico already is a firm believer in the savings he can derive from Efficiency Maine initiatives, having managed a similar lighting upgrade 10 years ago with incentive funds. This time around, the projects improved lighting in the gymnasiums and corridors at the high school and upgraded lighting in the elementary school classrooms, hallways, cafeteria, and lobby. By matching Efficiency Maine’s incentives, DiFrederico estimates the school department will save $7000 a year for the elementary school and $6000 a year for the high school.

“Given the nature of limited school budgets and funding, I had to look for creative ways to get the job done,” explained DiFrederico. “This was a relatively easy process that was readily available and translated into real dollar savings up front and long-range. Without Efficiency Maine’s incentives, I would not have been able to complete these projects.”

DiFrederico was especially keen after he did the math. He calculated that by upgrading the lighting in all the elementary school classrooms energy load dropped from 1100 watts per classroom to 400 watts. Together, both projects will save an estimated 87,000 kWh annually.

“It used to cost $1.33 a day to light each elementary school classroom and now it costs 48 cents,” he said. “The new LED fixtures not only provide better light, but they look better, and provide a modern update to the buildings. Teachers and staff have also thanked me for brightening their classrooms and the building. To me, those benefits are a win-win for the district.”

Efficiency Maine accepted applications for the School Lighting Retrofit Funding Opportunity Notice (FON) between February 10, 2020, and June 1, 2020. The funding opportunity is now closed. Funding was calculated based on the amount of electricity saved by each project in the first year and was subject to caps of 80% of the total project cost and $100,000 per school district.

Efficiency Maine’s Prescriptive Program, which funded the school initiative, offers fixed incentives to reduce the cost of projects and to improve energy efficiency for businesses, municipalities, schools and higher education facilities, manufacturing and other industrial facilities, other non-residential facilities, and multifamily and condominium buildings with five or more units.

To learn more about the Efficiency Maine Prescriptive Program and how to maximize its benefits visit https://www.efficiencymaine.com/at-work/ci-prescriptive-incentive-program/.

About Efficiency Maine Trust
Efficiency Maine Trust is the independent administrator for programs to improve the efficiency of energy use and reduce greenhouse gases in Maine. The Trust does this primarily by delivering financial incentives on the purchase of high-efficiency equipment or changes to operations that help customers save electricity, natural gas and other fuels throughout the Maine economy. The Trust is a quasi-state agency governed by a Board of Trustees with oversight from the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Visit www.efficiencymaine.com for more information.

Nominations Open For 2020 Maine School Maintenance Custodian of the Year A. Burleigh Oxton Award for Excellence    

Educational Plant Maintenance Association of Maine (EPMA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering the best practices of educational plant maintenance and custodial workmanship through education and training for school custodians, maintenance teams, and facilities directors, is currently accepting nominations for Maine School Maintenance Custodian of the Year A. Burleigh Oxton Award for Excellence.

The A. Burleigh Oxton Award for Excellence recipient will receive a personalized plaque and a $300.00 college scholarship that will be awarded in their name to a deserving student who is a graduate in their district.

Maine School Maintenance Custodian of the Year A. Burleign Oxton Award for Excellence Selection Criteria:

  • Serves as a role model for students through actions of a dedicated employee who is known for going the extra mile to help students, staff, and visitors to the facility
  • Demonstrates passion about maintaining and operating the local school building to ensure clean, safe, and healthy learning and working environment, and
  • Demonstrates exemplary job performance,

Nominations are accepted from school administration, school staff, parents, students, and/or school groups.

Nominations Due Date June 5, 2020

Please send a nomination letter that:

  • Describes why the nominee was chosen
  • Explains outstanding performance that led to the nomination
  • Tells a written or visual story about the nominee’s community contribution or activities
  • Includes the name, address, and phone number of three references

The nomination must include: name, address, phone, and title of the nominee; name and address of the nominee’s supervisor; name and address of the School Administrative Unit; and name, address, telephone, and email of the person submitting the nomination.  Send your nomination by email to Andrew Madura, President of EPMA, at andy.madura@lakeregionschools.org and please attach your nomination letter as a pdf.

The EPMA Selection Process

  • June 5, 2020, nominations close at end of day
  • June 6-11, EPMA Selection Committee reviews nominations and invites nominee to provide additional information
  • June 12, Nominees will be notified about the status of their nomination
  • June 14-July 17, the top 4 finalists will be contacted to schedule a conference call or virtual interview with the EPMA A. Burleigh Oxton Award Committee

During the fall of 2020, the recipient of Maine School Maintenance Custodian of the Year A. Burleigh Oxton Award for Excellence will be recognized at an award ceremony that will be coordinated by the recipient’s school and the EPMA A. Burleigh Oxton Award Committee.

Please contact Andrew Madura, President of EPMA, by telephone at 207-693-6467 if you have questions.

Extended Deadline: Funding Opportunity Notice for School Lighting Projects

To date, Efficiency Maine has received more than fifty applications for school lighting projects as part of this Funding Opportunity Notice. In fact, one project has already been completed.

Because of the level of interest, we have extended the deadline for a second time to allow more schools to apply — Efficiency Maine has extended the deadline for the School Lighting Funding Opportunity Notice to June 1, 2020. This decision has been made so that all parties involved will have more time to work through logistics and take part in these elevated incentives. Efficiency Maine does not oversee interactions between school personnel and the Qualified Partner; the program trusts that you will work with your contractor to determine how to handle site assessments and projects.

Efficiency Maine has extended the deadline for schools to apply through CIP FON-001-2020 for enhanced financial incentives to convert old, inefficient school lighting to LEDs.  Funding will be provided as an incentive of $0.30/kWh saved (first-year savings) capped at $100,000 per school district. Applications may be submitted through June 1, 2020.

To learn more about the Funding Opportunity Notice, please click here.

PRIORITY NOTICE: Expanded Authority of Reserve Funds

An Act Regarding the Reserve Funds of Certain School Organizational Structures was signed by Governor Mills on March 12, 2020 and will become effective on June 16, 2020.

The contents of the new legislation are summarized below and may be of interest to leaders of some School Administrative Unit (SAU)s. Administrators may wish to consult with legal counsel regarding the procedures for establishing reserve funds for their school organizational structure.

School Administrative Units included in this act are School Administrative Districts (SADs), Regional School Units (RSUs), Community School Districts (CSDs), and Career and Technical Education (CTE) Regions.

Previously, School Administrative Units were able to establish a reserve fund for school construction projects and for financing the acquisition or reconstruction of a specific or type of capital improvement. This new legislation provides additional flexibility to create reserve funds for any of the following: regular education, special education, career and technical education, other instruction such as summer school and extracurricular activities, student and staff support, system administration, school administration, transportation and buses, facilities maintenance, debt service and other commitments; and all other expenditures including school lunch. The request for the reserve fund must be included in the district budget and have a description of the purpose for the reserve fund. The governing board is the trustee of the reserve fund, and in the cases of SADs, RSUs and CSDs, the fund must be deposited or invested by the treasurer as directed by the governing board.

Previously, Boards of Directors of any of these SAUs were able to expend money from reserve funds only if they were authorized to do so by a vote at a district budget meeting and an article for the purpose for the reserve fund had been in the warrant calling the meeting. However, this legislation now also provides the Boards of Directors with the ability to expend funds when the expenditure is required by law or in an emergency where the cost of a district vote is prohibitive. The governing board of the SAUs may expend the funds after providing public notice of a regular or special meeting, at which a vote to expend funds from the reserve fund will be taken. A public hearing must be held prior to the vote to expend funds from the reserve fund, and the vote must be recorded in the meeting minutes.

Step 1 – Reserve fund proposed in the budget for specific purpose is approved

Step 2 – Reserve fund set aside in SAD, RSU, CSD organizations

Step 3 – To expend the funds in the budget year, provide notice and:

  1. Hold a district meeting, OR
  2. Hold a regular or special meeting of the governing board with a public hearing, vote, and recorded vote.

For CTE regions, the cooperative board may expend the reserve fund if permitted by any indebtedness secured by the reserve fund and if approved in the region budget. A separate article for that purpose must be included in the budget proposal.

Please reference PL 2019 Chapter 588 for additional information.

Expanded Authority of Reserve Funds

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Vine Street Elementary School Custodian Honored with A. Burleigh Oxton Award for Excellence

The Educational Plant Maintenance Association (EPMA) of Maine awarded the A. Burleigh Oxton Award to Head Custodian Christopher Whitney of the Vine Street Elementary School in Bangor recently.

On Tuesday, December 10, Andrew R Madura, Director of Facilities
SAD #61-Lake Region Schools and Dana Petersen, EPMA President and Manager of Facilities at York County Community College drove to Bangor to present the award to Chris at an assembly in the school’s gymnasium.

At 8 am, each of the individual classrooms began to file into the gym to participate in honoring Chris.  His Mother and a local NBC news reporter were also in attendance. One by one the classes rose and presented him with cards of appreciation, stories and one class even sang a song to their favorite custodian.

Chris is much more than a custodian to the school and community.  One particular story I came away with was from the school Principal, Lynne Silk who told the crowd that every Memorial Day Holiday on his day off, Chris and his son will get up early and go to every school in the district and ‘properly’ lower the flags to half-staff, paying honor and respect to all the men and women who have died defending this country.  He brings his son who sometimes brings a friend and thus teaches them how to respect the flags and our military personnel. – Dana Petersen

The pictured in the photo above are (left to right): Dr. Betsy Webb – Bangor Superintendent of Schools; Andy Madura, EPMA Chairman A. Burleigh Oxton Award Committee; Christopher Whitney, 2019 Award Recipient; Dana Petersen, EPMA President; Lynne Silk, Principal.

The event was truly emotional for everyone and I am glad to be a small part in the EPMA organization and this annual recognition award.

This story was submitted by Dana Petersen, EPMA President and  Manager of Facilities at York County Community College as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea email Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.