State grant to help fund energy efficiency work at Walla Walla schools

Blue Ridge and Prospect Point elementary schools got a $380,000 boost.

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WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla Public Schools is among 27 districts to receive energy efficiency grants through the state's education agency.

A $380,000 award will go toward securing and installing an energy management system at Blue Ridge Elementary, and making lighting improvements at Blue Ridge and Prospect Point Elementary.

The entire cost of the upgrades at the two schools is about $950,000, the district reports.

The rest of the projects' cost -- about $570,000 -- is coming from $1.6 million the district saved from the reconstruction of Edison Elementary.

A bond to replace Edison was approved in 2007 by taxpayers for $19.5 million. The Walla Walla School Board learned this year the project came in under budget, and agreed this summer to use the excess money for needed improvements throughout the district.

One of the School Board's key goals was to make necessary improvements at Blue Ridge Elementary, which was found through air-quality assessments to be testing high for radon gas.

The board reserved $500,000 from the excess bond money for Blue Ridge even before making a final decision on whether to use the rest of the money or issue a refund to taxpayers.

The grants were an-nounced by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction last week, and total more than $27 million in awards throughout the state.

The money is part of $100 million in competitive energy grants for schools offered by the 2010 Legislature. Districts qualify by improving heating, ventilation, air-conditioning systems, making repairs and upgrades of controls, replacing inefficient lighting or through other improvements.

The latest awards were the second round of grants awarded by OSPI this year. Walla Walla Public Schools plans to apply for a final round of grants to help cover the cost of other needed improvements throughout the district, particularly a new boiler for Pioneer Middle School. Districts are required to provide matching funds to offset the grant money.

The district estimates the Blue Ridge and Prospect Point elementary improvements will save about $30,000 a year in cut energy costs. The upgrades also qualify the district for utility incentives.

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