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School Board Mulls District-Wide Natural Gas Conversion

Making the switch could save the school district thousands.

With Ward Melville High School already running on natural gas heat, converting the remaining eight buildings in the Three Village school district could save thousands of dollars, according to a report from the school's architect.

Architect John Grillo on Tuesday said the district would recover its investment in less than a year if the school board approves the measure. An informal school board agreement paved the way for Grillo and the administration to develop a more formal proposal for the school board to consider.

According to Grillo's report, the Three Village school district spent more than $874,000 in oil consumption during the 2010-11 school year. The estimated cost of natural gas consumption would amount to $420,444, yielding a savings of $453,717 if the district switched to natural gas via National Grid.

The project would cost approximately $780,000, and according to the report, the district would likely see 66 percent of the cost reimbursed by the state under provisions that fund capital improvements. Thus, Grillo said, the switch would cost taxpayers about $1.11 per household.

Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, said the district has two options when considering the conversion: including the project cost in the 2012-13 school budget – a factor which could complicate – or floating a separate bond on this year's ballot.

"The benefit this year is regardless of whether the proposed budget passes ... [a bond] needs a simple majority to pass," Carlson said.

Board President John Diviney on Thursday told Patch he expects the board to formally vote on the issue sometime in March.

A National Grid spokesman said 85 percent of schools on Long Island already rely on natural gas.

At the meeting, trustee Dr. Jeffrey Kerman said he would recommend making the switch to natural gas.

"It’s a no brainer, basically," Kerman said. "To save that much money – and it’s a cleaner burning fuel – you can’t do without it."

According to Grillo's report, the school district could also join the Suffolk County Natural Gas Commodity Cooperative, which could save the district even more money. The conversion would be the equivalent of taking 110 cars off the road each year.

Ward Melville High School already runs on natural gas because the conversion was funded by the Excel bond passed several years ago, when the size of the high school was expanded to 370,798 square feet.

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