RHS on gas?

A request for a natural gas pipeline that would run down Ridgebury Road from Danbury to the high school’s campus was proposed and accepted as part of the Board of Education’s five-year capital improvement plan Monday, Nov. 25.

The proposal, along with 15 other requested “town involved” site projects, will go in front of the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance for consideration.

“I don’t know what the odds of success are, but this project takes out an ineffective model and puts an efficient solution on the table,” said board member John Palermo, who is spearheading the project. “We don’t get a lot of projects like this that have a payback period included.”

The high school has electric heat, and the high operating costs have been a source of concern for years.

Mr. Palermo roughly estimated that it would cost $500,000 per mile to install the gas line to the high school’s campus, which includes Scotts Ridge Middle School.

Joe Morits, the district’s facilities manager, presented the five-year capital plan to the board and noted that the gas line would be feasible, but estimated that the total cost, once completed, for the three-mile gas main extension would be around $3 million in infrastructure costs.

Additional capital investment costs would include a $1.2-million 200 kW turbine at the high school and a $300,000 50 kW turbine at Scotts Ridge.

Board members were concerned about the cost of the project and voiced doubts over whether the town would want to participate in funding the gas line.

Mr. Palermo said he requested the natural gas line because of its potential savings for the town in the long run.

The payback period is an estimated 11.6 years.

“It comes with a payback period, so the rate of return is there for the selectmen and Board of Finance to see,” he said. ‘That’s the selling point to the town — this will pay for itself over time.”

He estimated that total first-year savings would be just shy of $131,000, with RHS’s heat and power costs offsetting $104,751 and Scotts Ridge’s costs offsetting $26,190.

In year two of the installation process, the high school and Scotts Ridge would begin the necessary heating plant conversions with subsequent gas conversions to follow.

“It’s expensive to heat the high school and to have electricity in that building — we’re talking about anywhere from $650,000 to $675,000 a year,” said Chairman Austin Drukker on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

Some members speculated that the savings brought in by having a natural gas pipeline weren’t the key to getting the project moving forward.

“Homeowners really need to buy into this project — they will drive its success,” said board member Chris Murray. “Without their approval, there won’t be much discussion.”

Mr. Drukker added that if the line can draw interest from residents, the board would have a “good chance” with getting the project through the selectmen and the Board of Finance, who have rejected similar proposals in the past.

In addition to the gas pipeline, the board unanimously voted to approve the request of 15 town-funded site projects at Farmingville and Ridgebury elementary schools and the high school.

Farmingville has six potential “improvement projects” going forward, including the repaving of the playground area, resurfacing of all sidewalks and installing new lights in the parking lot.

Ridgebury could receive repairs to its sidewalks as well, along with drainage upgrades in the playground.

The capital plan also is seeking for improvements to the entrance and exit roadways to the high school as well as additional crosswalks, a third speed bump at the front entrance and the replacement of a French drain underneath the loading dock.

However, the natural gas pipeline was the only item to generate discussion from the board at Monday night’s meeting, where members talked about the added project for about 20 minutes before moving the capital plan to a vote.

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  • -2

    No. Our schools shouldn’t get into the electricity business. It’s not our area of expertise. We went through two energy audits and still didn’t realize CL&P was over-billing us by a huge amount. It shows we don’t really know what we’re doing when it comes to the high school’s electricity usage. Now the BOE wants to get into the electricity business? No. Stick with what you know – educating kids. Leave electricity to the experts at the power company.

  • Kirk

    $500,000 per mile for a gas line is a pure pipe dream …. multiple times 4 and maybe more …. there can be no real economic payoff of this pie in the sky idea … unless residents tap into the gas line, use it, and ARE WILLING TO PAY FOR IT!!!! Cheaper to haul propane to the school and burn it and even that doesn’t make sense give the cost of generating electricity!

    This is an idea that has been floated many times before … if the idea makes no sense on the face of it what can the real reason be … well … gas lines can also lead to development in Ridgebury! y

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