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Cherry Hill school officials consider installing equipment to save energy

Cherry Hill school officials are considering whether to spend as much as $8 million to install energy-saving equipment in district schools, including new boilers, refrigerators, and controls to automatically switch off lights when no one is using a room.

Cherry Hill school officials are considering whether to spend as much as $8 million to install energy-saving equipment in district schools, including new boilers, refrigerators, and controls to automatically switch off lights when no one is using a room.

The technology would save the district at least 10 percent of its annual $2.5 million utility bill, depending on the scope of the project the school board undertakes.

An engineering firm presented the school board last week with two options, the first of which would cost $2.9 million and include new energy-efficient lighting, controls to shut off classroom lights and vending machines while not in use, and new boilers in four schools.

Those upgrades would be made at no cost to the district, with a 15-year loan covered by an annual saving of $253,000 in utility costs, officials said.

But the administration backs a broader plan that would cost $8.2 million and involve replacing boilers in 16 of the district's 19 schools, along with new plumbing, controls, and hot-water pumps.

Those upgrades, estimated to save the district $365,000 a year, may not fully pay for themselves over the same period, "but are critical to improving the overall efficiency" of the buildings, Assistant Superintendent Jim Devereaux said.

The board will decide by the end of March, as it adopts a budget, which option to pursue and - if it opts for the more expensive project - how to pay for it.

The proposals before the board would either stretch the cost over 15 years or pay it off in five, allowing the district to realize a saving more quickly.

The faster payoff, however, would cost the district nearly half of its capital budget, which has been about $4 million in recent years, officials said.

The board has to decide whether it can afford the investment, and what projects could be prevented as a result, board president Kathy Judge said.