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Lawrence schools save bundle, have trouble with leaks

By Kristen Bishop 340-2443

MOULTON — Leaky pipes at Lawrence County schools stained an otherwise spotless energy-savings report for the 2006 fiscal year.

Since hiring consulting firm Energy Education Inc. more than a year ago, the school system has saved nearly $400,000 on utility and water bills.

Propane, natural gas and electricity use all were decreased significantly, but water costs increased because of cracked, weathered pipes at the county's older facilities.

"Water is a problem area," said county schools Energy Manager Cynthia Jackson. "We saved about $400,000, but could've been at $450,000 if we had saved on water."

Superintendent Dexter Rutherford told Board of Education members Tuesday that many of the pipes can't be fixed because they have been paved and constructed over.

"It's extremely difficult to locate (the leaky pipes), but this program has helped us to identify some of the problem areas," he said.

Pipes must be replaced

Leaky pipes that can't be fixed must be replaced, said Jackson. Officials are working to replace water pipes at Hazlewood High School.

"Hazlewood has a leak at the football field, and we're going to have to bypass the old building and install new pipes," she said Wednesday. "That's just at one school. We had a leak at the new (Judy Jester Learning) center today."

Though the new program provided by Energy Education Inc. can't do anything about old buildings with old plumbing, it has been instrumental in locating potential leaks and stopping water losses as soon as possible, said Jackson.

Looking for unusual

"When I track the bills, it'll pop out and let me know if it's abnormally high or abnormally low," she said.

"It gives me the data to know if a building is not performing up to guidelines, so I can tell maintenance and have them investigate."

Rutherford credited Jackson and school employees with the decrease in utility bills. Teachers have been turning lights off when not needed and setting thermostats lower during after-school hours, he said.

"This has been a very positive program. ... Certainly our employees have played a huge role in that," he said. "We've been a little warmer in the warm months and a little cooler in the cold months."

In August, Rutherford and the Board of Education rewarded all education personnel with an extra personal day off for their energy-saving diligence.

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