For Duluth schools, spending on energy-saving features can save over time

  • Article by: DON JACOBSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 11, 2013 - 11:03 PM

Duluth school officials persuaded taxpayers that spending $300 million to overhaul schools with energy-saving features will pay off over time.

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stplooklistnApr. 12, 13 6:51 AM

WRONG. There are no energy savings in Duluth. The most terrible example of what JCI did to sell their scheme has happened in the St. Louis Co School district. Last winter, in record warm temperatures the new "energy saving" schools cost more. Take a look at the Timberjay newspaper that won awards for their reporting on the issue. Duluth district shoved this plan down the throats of the city, there was no persuasion. They voted to not let the taxpayers vote on the largest school bonding bill in the history of MN. Why? Because they knew it wouldn't pass. The"poll" they used has been debunked long ago. One participant in the telephone poll wrote a letter to the paper that she felt "duped" when she found out how they used the answers. It was a terribly skewed poll. ...........Now the Duluth schools are broke. Yes, broke. 50 students in a classroom, cutting classes, teachers, spending the reserve fund down to nothing. And students are leaving the district in droves. ..........Not energy efficient to ignore the embedded energy of existing schools. They built a new middle school on bedrock up a hill, can't bike to that, yet the newest school they decided wasn't necessary, Central HS, is sitting empty a couple miles away. ..........There was even an admission that any savings would be eaten up by all the A/C (yeah, in Duluth) needed to cool down the Smartboards. ..........This was a money making scheme for the contractor. ..........Obscene waste of precious school tax dollar. Taxpayers are furious and there hasn't been a levy passed since the $315mil waste. ..........Would expect the STrib to do a better job than regurgitating the BS the district and JCI used to push this gross monstrosity.

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artjohnstonApr. 16, 1310:55 AM

stplooklistn is correct. Don Jacobson and the USGBC did absolutely not fact checking for this story. Art Johnston, PE Duluth School Board member

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artjohnstonApr. 17, 13 8:04 AM

I'm a school board member in Duluth and a professional engineer. I was very surprised by the very misleading story that was given in the USGBC presentation; and worse, the reporting that did no fact checking. There has been insignificant reduction in energy costs (or carbon footprint) since the Duluth Red Plan has been (mostly) completed. Why wasn’t this false claim of energy saving checked out before reporting it? The Duluth Red Plan was originally supposed to get LEED Silver certification, but the presenters failed to say that it was long ago thrown out; and the administration now claims there was never any intent to meet any LEED level. Though the Duluth School's (and apparently some of the plan’s architects) still brags about being a LEED Silver school, there is little in the buildings that even meets the intent of LEED Silver. Obviously, they aren’t asking the USGBC for any LEED certification. There has never even been any energy analysis, before or after, the Red Plan. No energy analysis is of course, a violation of even the lowest USGBC's LEED levels, not to mention energy code regulations. In addition to the lack of energy analysis, other LEED Silver violations are insulation deficiencies, lack of local material procurement, and lack of water conservation. As far as I can tell, the only LEED criteria that might have been met are indoor air quality. But even on that, there has been no verification. The LEED monitoring and evaluation criteria are being blatantly ignored. I'm hoping there must be some documented Green Building success stories in Minnesota. But Duluth is not it. The Duluth Public schools Red Plan is the poster child of how to bury a school in debt, lose all community support, and no energy savings. It is this Duluth’s unverified hyperbola, which is turning "Green Building" into one more case of Green Washing. Shame on the USGBC for promoting such a scam. Art Johnston School Board member

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duluth88Apr. 17, 13 8:33 AM

I completely agree with the other two posts - the author of this article did not do his research and obviously just printed what he was told to by those looking for a pat on the back - we are familiar with that type of reporting here in Duluth because that's what the DNT did. I, too, would expect more than that from the Star Tribune. Duluth did need to make some changes but we did not need a Cadillac plan and complete 320 million overhaul. Some of the schools that were overhauled (70-80 million) simply got a coat of paint, a couple new windows, smart boards and JCI's air conditioners. There are no savings. The public has been calling for a state audit ever since this fiasco started but for some reason we can't get one. We keep saying "show us the numbers before & after" - let us see these savings but they refuse. Any savings that might have been realized would have been eaten up by increased transportation costs, cooling costs and building costs. The classrooms are crammed with 40++ kids - not enough desks or space so kids are sitting on the floor., not enough teachers - had to lay so many off because they don't have the money - using old textbooks, the list goes on. Still curious why no one is willing to research this (besides the Timberjay) . And the sad truth is it's going to happen again & again until they are stopped from taking advantage of these school districts that listen to a slick salesman telling they can have it all.

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artjohnstonApr. 22, 13 6:22 AM

A couple other comments.====The article insinuated that in addition to [false] energy savings, there was other "money savings" and thus it was a good "return on investment over time". There is absolutely no truth to that. Most building projects are bonded, but in Duluth's case the false "saving", as claimed by the USGBC presenters, was used to mislead the business and community that taxes wouldn't have to be raised. As a consequence, the $315 million project was funded largely by pulling money from the general fund (the classrooms). As the savings claims floundered, the money strain on the classrooms has killed us. Due to the lack of “savings” we've had to raise taxes as we've found out that we were dubbed. So now we have the worse of both worlds--high taxes and reduced curriculum and reduced teacher FTEs. ==== Another note: there was no poll that "showed most supported the [Red Plan] move". In fact, there was not even a referendum--due to a loophole that took away citizens' votes--and created a still very angry community. Even the most basic reporting would have uncovered that fact.=======Art Johnston=Duluth School Board member

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