Harsh winter likely to cause Hannibal Public Schools to save less on utility bills

Assistant superintendent Susan Johnson, center, shares a laugh after being congratulated on her appointment as the incoming superintendent of the Hannibal School District during Wednesday night's meeting. (H-W Photo/Maggie Menderski)
Posted: Feb. 19, 2014 10:40 pm Updated: Mar. 5, 2014 11:15 pm
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- The Hannibal Public School Board anticipates the district's energy program will save less this winter than it normally would.

The district began its energy program in April 2011 and has since saved $549,199. Allen Gottman, the district's energy conservation program specialist, said during Wednesday's school board meeting the district saw a 31.2 percent energy savings from April 2013 to October 2013, which accumulated to $173,328. Even with energy preservation measures in place, Gottman believes the harsh winter still will be a blow to the district.

"Comfort is a hard thing to define in a building because everybody's thermometer is a little bit different," Gottman said. "This winter has definitely taken a toll on us, but those numbers have yet to be seen."

Gottman said the district frequently examines ways to save energy. Since the program began in 2011 the district has implemented more efficient lighting as well as set guidelines for closing doors and blinds. Staff members across the district turn off computers at the end of each day, and district coolers also have been consolidated.

Gottman also said the district has become more rigorous in shutting down buildings during the summer. The shut-down saves the district about $50,000 each June and July. Gottman plans to scale back even further this summer to boost that to $60,000 per month, which he hopes may help make up for the extra cost this winter.

Gottman also noted that the district's electrical rates are notably higher than some other districts in the state. The Hannibal Board of Public Works charges Hannibal Public Schools 12.54 cents per kilowatt per hour. The Camdenton School District in central Missouri pays 10.3 cents per kilowatt per hour. The Independence School District in Jackson County pays 8.5 cents per kilowatt per hour. Rich Stilley, business manager for Hannibal Public Schools, said the district cannot negotiate these rates with the Hannibal Board of Public Works but that there may be some cost saving programs through Ameren Missouri the district can pursue.

In other business Stilley reported the district has implemented its new hard-surfaces-only bus routes a few times this year. The district announced this new plan in July as a way to reduce the number of snow days. This alternative route features pavement pick-up spots for students who live on gravel roads and allows the district's buses to more easily navigate snowy roads. The switch impacts fewer than 100 Hannibal Public School students. Stilley said he did receive a few complaints from parents, but in general, the new program seems to be successful.

The board also congratulated Assistant Superintendent Susan Johnson on her promotion to superintendent. Johnson will replace current Superintendent Jill Janes when Janes retires at the end of this school year.