Pitt County Schools will save more than $500,000 in energy costs this year as a result of a contract negotiation and schools being closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In January, the district renegotiated its contract with Cenergistic, a sustainable energy conservation company. The district pays an annual fee to receive utility savings, which then go back into the school system.

Matt Johnson, assistant superintendent of operations, said that as a result of the contract renegotiation, the school system will get an additional $345,130.80 in utility savings each year for the next three years. This is Pitt’s sixth year with Cenergistic.

During a Pitt County Board of Education workshop on Monday, Johnson told board members, “We would like to take that money and put it into things that would enhance energy savings — such as windows, boilers and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning).

“The priority is what would give us the most bang for our buck with our current systems,” he said.

Aaron Errickson, facility services director, presented the projected savings and recommendations for where funds could best be used over the next three years.

“In addition to the contact savings amount, we also have savings due to the stay-at-home shutdown, the one upside, possibly, to the pandemic situation,” Errickson said.

Savings from the shutdown were calculated by comparing last year’s monthly utility bills savings to this year’s.

In March, savings were about 45 percent — $82,409. In April, savings rose to 60 percent, or $98,746, Errickson said.

“May is still being calculated, but they are on target to match, or exceed, the amount of savings in April,” he said.

Errickson also pointed out that the first month of the new contract was February, which was a milder month than normal, which produced a savings of $23,520.

Added all together, the savings equal $549,446.

“That is a significant amount of money that we have not had in years past,” he said.

He told board members the Facilities Services Department is requesting the majority of the savings be spent on maintenance projects, which would lead to even more savings through lower utility costs.

Projects for year one include:

  • Boiler replaced at E.B. Aycock Middle School —$52,800.
  • Rooftops work at E.B. Aycock — $16,700.
  • Windows replaced at C.M. Eppes Middle School —$200,000.
  • Windows replaced at Elmhurst Elementary School — $280,000.

Errickson told the board that in addition to the energy savings that would come with the replaced windows at Eppes and Elmhurst, they would be able to address some concerns of the fire marshal concerning secondary fire exits.

“By doing these projects, we’ll be able to put in the secondary egress, (or secondary exits), to meet the fire requirements,” he said.

Projects for year two (utility cost savings $345,130.80):

  • Remainder of Elmhurst windows replaced — $325,000.
  • Kitchen water heaters replaced at Sadie Salter — $20,000.

“Not know how the pandemic will play out, there may be additional savings this coming year as well,” Errickson said.

Projects for year three (utility cost savings $345,130.80):

  • Windows replaced at Sam Bundy, Farmville — $280,000.
  • LED lighting upgrades at J.H. Rose — $65,000.

Errickson said there are more projects than funds available. These include window replacements at C.M. Eppes’ gymnasium.

Also, window replacements are needed at Sam Bundy, Ayden Elementary, G.R. Whitfield and W.H. Robinson.

“All four of those schools were built in the 1950s,” Errickson said. Windows there are single-paned and do not have energy-efficient “thermal-break” insulation.

“Everything we are installing now are double-paned, insulated glass, on thermal-break frames, with a tint built into the glass which blocks UV rays as well,” he said.

Errickson said window replacement projects offer the biggest utility savings, even over HVAC.

“Besides energy savings, you also have the life-safety upgrades for egress (secondary fire exits),” he said. “The third reason (for upgraded) windows is security.”

With the newly installed windows “people can see out, but you can’t see in during the day,” he said.

Board member Caroline Doherty praised Johnson and Errickson for their work.

“The Cenergistic arrangement continues to save us money that we sorely need. I really appreciate the continued focus of our faculties staff on maximizing the contract so we can continue to get the savings we need for our aging facilities,” she said.

Errickson said money has been requested from the county to replace air-conditioning window units at E.B. Aycock, but for the past two summers the district has had to use money out of its budget, to replace them as they can.

Chairwoman Betsy Flanagan asked Johnson if other projects were not getting done because of the focus has been on E.B. Aycock.

Errickson said there were some projects the district has been unable to do because of limited funds.

“The county has indicated there is money for us in Article 42 sales tax, which is school system money controlled by the county,” Johnson said. “After the budget year comes to a close, they are working on getting us a portion of that to work on some of the projects we have on our preferred maintenance list.”

Superintendent Ethan Lenker said the school system hopes to receive money from the county once the budget is approved.

“We probably have $200 million worth of preferred maintenance, so we will keep adding to that list,” Lenker said.