Current school board candidate, Fred Sanchez, who is seeking re-election for the Park Hill School Board, was outraged over statements made by some of his opponents for what he described as, “Lies, half truths, and class warfare.”
Sanchez said he takes issue with comments by candidates David Cox, Chris Seufert, and Timothy Thompson. All three have stated concerns about recent decisions by the board to approve certain expenditures outlined in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification of the proposed newest elementary school.
Funds for the school and its environmental technologies will be available only if a bond initiative is passed on the April 5 ballot. Sanchez, a democrat, maintains that the three republican candidates are using partisan politics to leverage a successful election.
The trio of candidates questioned an allocation of $503,220 for “Optimized Energy Performance” which included an expense for a geothermal heat pump. The pump, which provides energy efficient heating and cooling, uses a system to bring more consistent inner earth temperatures to the surface, providing a cost savings on utility bills over time.
The payback period for this line-item was originally estimated to be 25 years, indicated in a spreadsheet presented to school district board members in early February, who voted to approve the measure. Sanchez stated that number has been reduced by more than half and is expected to be closer to a 10-12 year investment.
Chris Seufert said he is concerned by the initial miscalculation. “I want to know why the architects numbers were so off,” he stated.
Explaining the reasoning behind the decision, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Technology, Dr. Paul Kelly, told The Luminary that the 25 year return was calculated during the beginning phase of the design when construction specifics were not yet available.
Therefore, Kelly said that they based the approximation on a comparison to the traditional heating and cooling units used in the school district. That current system, he says, requires mechanical replacements of two thirds compared to just one third of the unit with the new geothermal system.
Seufert questioned whether the recent drop in pay-back estimates stemmed from political pressure. “That causes me concern about how accurate either of those numbers are,” he said. He also called decision making by the board “blind-faced” due to the approval process for the LEED proposal which he said focused too much on obtaining a higher level of green certification.
Timothy Thompson concurred, stating that he observed a lack in line item analysis. “I hope they [the board] had more interaction, more questions, and more privy than they let on in the board meeting.” he told The Luminary. “They just watched a Power Point Presentation.”
“Absolutely absurd,” was the response from Sanchez to allegations that the board neglected to perform a cost benefit analysis. “They are giving the impression that the board did not appropriately look into the up front costs and the eventual pay off.”
The building of the tenth elementary school and incorporation of the green LEED technology will depend on voter approval of a bond issue in the general municipal election on Tuesday, April 5. In addition, the proposal will fund maintenance, security, and additional classroom space.
A School Board Candidate Forum will be held on Tuesday, March 29 at 6 p.m. in room 110 at the Park Hill district office, 7703 NW Barry Road. The Park Hill District Council of PTAs sponsors the event.
Eight candidates are running for three open seats with three-year terms, and four candidates are running for one open seat with a one-year term. The election is Tuesday, April 5.