LUMBERTON — Robeson Community College’s trustees will further study energy performance contracting as a way to pay for upgrades to the college’s heating and cooling systems if they get the approval from the county Board of Commissioners.
The trustees on Monday unanimously voted in favor of having RCC President Pamela Hilbert inform the commissioners that the college plans to move forward with an audit that would determine the costs of the energy efficiency improvements needed in all buildings on the college’s main campus in Lumberton and those at COMtech. The audit, which will cost an estimated $103,000, would be done by Brady Trane Company, which is located in Morrisville.
According to Hilbert, the project would not cost the county anything.
“But before we can go forward with this project, the state requires that the commissioners not lower the amount of funding they provide the college to pay for utilities for the life of the project,” she said. ‘The life for this project will be 16 years.”
The detailed investment grade audit is needed to determine exactly how much it will cost for all of the needed improvements to make RCC more energy-efficient. Brady Trane estimates the overall cost of the project will be between $2.5 million and $3 million, Hilbert said.
During a July 30 meeting with the trustees and county commissioners, Tim Gasper, sales director for Brady Trane, said that a preliminary on-site review determined that the college could save $88,000 to $225,000 each year in energy costs if energy-saving improvements are made. The company guarantees that much of a savings each year, he said.
Under a proposed energy performance contract, if the trustees agree to move forward after the energy investment grade audit is finished, Brady Trane would make the recommended energy-saving improvements. The savings as a result of those improvements could then be used to pay back an bank loan to fund the project.
Hilbert said that the performance contract could include such things as heat pump installation; air-handling unit refurbishment or replacement; weatherization; lighting retrofit; and central utility plant upgrades.
So far, the college has not had to pay anything to Brady Trane. After the energy audit, however, if the trustees choose not to enter into an energy performance contract, the college would have to pay for the audit. If a performance contract is pursued, the cost of the audit would be rolled into the cost of the total project.
The decision to have the audit conducted was made by trustees during a closed session on Monday.
“The board agreed that even if we get the audit and then decide not to move forward with a performance contract, we have received some good information,” Hilbert said.
Although he voted in favor of the audit, Sammy Cox Jr., chairman of the trustees board, said after Monday’s meeting that he still has questions he wants answered before the college commits to the contract.
“If we can save $250,000 a year, I’m all for it,” Cox said after Monday’s meeting. “But I don’t want to say anything until after I hear what the commissioners say. I’m not so sure all the commissioners will go for this.”
Hilbert said that she hopes to be put on the agenda for the next meeting of the county commissioners, scheduled for next Monday.
In other business, the trustees on Monday:
— Heard a report from Bill Mauney, RCC’s interim vice president for Instruction and Support Services, concerning enrollment for the fall semester.
— Held a brief swearing-in ceremony for Kimberly Fuqua, the student representative on the board of trustees. Fuqua, who lives in Lumberton, is the president of RCC’s Student Government Association.
—Heard an update from Hilbert on how the ever-changing proposal for the state Connect N.C. bond initiative would affect RCC. She said that a recently penned referendum in the House would increase the amount of money provided for the state’s 58 community colleges from $200 million to $300 million.
“If by some miracle that the version of the referendum the House wrote would pass, it would mean $4.4 million for RCC,” Hilbert said.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.