LUMBERTON — Improvements intended to reduce energy costs at Robeson Community College and free up dollars to be used for other purposes are about to get underway.
The college has entered into a guaranteed energy performance contract with Brady Services of Morrisville, the subcontractor of Trane U.S. Inc., to make upgrades in all the buildings on the college’s main campus in Lumberton and at COMtech in Pembroke. Under the agreement, energy cost savings achieved by the improvements will be used to pay back the loan obtained to fund the project.
The college borrowed $2.9 million from Bank of America to pay for the work. The 2.17 percent interest rate on the 15-year loan RCC locked into in early November is the lowest rate he has seen since 1996 for this type of project, said Tim Gasper, the Brady Services solutions engineer who has worked on the project for several months.
“The college is getting a great deal,” he said.
Brady Services is paid based on realized savings. Gasper said his company “guarantees” RCC will see an energy savings from the improvements or “we reconcile the difference annually in cash.”
Before the college could enter into the performance contract, the Robeson County Board of Commissioners had to pass a resolution stating that the board would not reduce over the life of the contract the money that the county allocates to RCC to help pay its energy costs. That will allow the college to use the savings for other purposes.
The state Local Government Commission signed off on the project on Dec. 9. The commission must approve any performance contract entered into by a state community college.
Brady Services has been involved with guaranteed energy savings performance contracts at several North Carolina community colleges, including Lenoir, Edgecombe, Carteret and Central Piedmont.
“The bottom line is we should see energy savings in all of our buildings with these improvements,” said Tami George, RCC’s vice president of Business Services. “These improvements are going to make a big difference in our heating, air systems, plumbing and lighting.”
George said some of the new equipment and energy-saving devices have been ordered and installation is expected to begin soon.
Problems with old heating and cooling systems have been a concern at RCC for some time.
“I think we will see a significant savings,” said Shirley Stockton, vice chairman of RCC’s board of trustees. “We have had such a problem with our heating and cooling systems. We have to do something, and I think our plan of doing all of our buildings at one time, rather than building by building, is the best way to go.
“I think there will be a savings. We have been spending a lot just on patchwork, often because the equipment in some buildings is so old we can’t find the necessary replacement parts.”
Although optimistic and supportive of the energy savings plan, board Chairman Sammy Cox is taking a more measured wait-and-see approach.
“I’m optimistic, but this is a lot of money,” Cox said. “I have to depend on the experts and what they tell me. I hope they can do what they say can be done.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.