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The Bedford Area School District is considering geothermal heating, ventilation, and air conditioning as part of its proposed high school renovation project.

Superintendent Dr. Allen Sell told the school board Tuesday night that a geothermal HVAC system would save the district an estimated $28,000 per year compared with a standard HVAC system that uses natural gas for heat.

Sell said the savings project to exceed the additional cost of the geothermal system — about $23,000 more per year in debt service.

The geothermal system also would help the high school become certified LEED Silver, a rating system for environmentally responsible buildings, which could increase its about $3 million state reimbursement by 10%.

“If you don’t do geothermal, the chances of being LEED Silver are slim to none,” Sell said. “It’s not impossible, but it’s not probable.”

The district is in the design phase of an estimated $43 million project that would add a 17,500-square-foot gymnasium to the high school, lower and shift the athletic field, add a concourse connecting the parking lot to the bleachers, gym and school building, and include extensive work to the elementary and high schools’ utility systems.

The work has not been approved by the school board and Sell has said the design and cost can change.

A geothermal HVAC system was originally projected to cost an additional $650,000, according to Sell.

However, the architects working on preliminary designs for the project found there would be additional savings by connecting to the already-existing geothermal well field at the middle school.

Sell said the additional cost dropped to $450,000, noting the potential increase in state reimbursement was $300,000.

The geothermal system also would allow the HVAC installation to be done in phases by different wings of the building.

“We probably would not have to do temporary classrooms. We probably would not have to vacate the building,” Sell said.

Board President Tom Bullington said the HVAC work and other repairs to the elementary and high schools are a major part of the proposed project.

“I know there is a great deal of part of the community that says ‘why are you spending that much money on a football field?’ ” Bullington said. “The answer to that is, we’re not. The majority of this project is literally bringing this building up to code. We’re at the point where we can’t do nothing.”

Preliminary cost projections in October showed about $20.875 million in costs would be associated with improving utilities and other aspects of the high school, including its HVAC system, electric and plumbing, as well as its roofing and lot development. An additional $2.735 million was projected to improve the HVAC in the elementary school.

The cost to build the new gym on the rear side of the high school directly behind the existing gym was projected at about $20 million. That included a new concourse connecting the parking lot to the bleachers, gym and school building, and shifting the football field.

“The gym portion, et cetera, is very old, but the infrastructure of the building is also at the point where it’s going to quit,” Bullington said.

Sell said the district is organizing an updated presentation on the project during the board’s workshop meeting in March. He said the community will be encouraged to attend the presentation, which likely will be in the high school library or auditorium.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Paul Ruhlman noted community members also can schedule meetings to discuss the project anytime.

“Anytime a community member wants to come in, look at the plans and talk, we’re open,” he said.

Bullington said he is confident in the progress being made in the design phase.

“The more I see it, the more I’m encouraged that this is going to be a pretty nice project that is cost effective, but at the same time doing the right thing for students and the community,” he said.

Contact Will DeShong at wdeshong@bedfordgazette.com; 623-1151, ext. 150.

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