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Commissioner approve I-SS's request for $8.8 million loan to improve schools
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Commissioner approve I-SS's request for $8.8 million loan to improve schools

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When the Iredell-Statesville School Board and Facilities Task Force first presented its proposal for the county to apply for a loan of up to $9 million on Dec. 1, it drew some criticism from the Iredell County Board of Commissioners.

For nearly 90 minutes, members of I-SS went back and forth with the county commissioners, with former board member Ken Robertson even pulling out a white board at one point to more clearly get his thoughts across to the school board presenters.

Ultimately the issue was tabled for more than a month and a half.

When I-SS came back to the table on Tuesday evening, they came with a more fleshed out plan that was unanimously passed by the Board of Commissioners.

“In the last meeting, we had not dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s,” Jeff James, I-SS superintendent, said. “So we left, sharpened our pencils and regrouped and came back with the parameters they set.”

On Tuesday night, Iredell County was granted the approval to apply for a loan totaling more than $8.8 million from the Local Government Commission for I-SS to improve both the lighting and air quality systems in schools all over the county.

The money will come to the school system in the form of a loan to be repaid within 3 to 5 years, one of the major requests from the Board of Commissioners. The timing on the loan application was important as well, as according to James, there are rebates available now that would cover the interest payments on the loan.

According to I-SS, this loan will prevent these expenses from falling onto the backs of taxpayers.

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“We can pay for this project up front, but here’s the problem — we will consume our entire capital budget,” James said. “If we spend $8.8 million out of capital, we’ll deplete our capital fund, and then about the time we get done, some other project will come up and we would have to come back to commissioners to get it funded.”

The vast majority of the $8.8 million will be going into upgrading the lighting systems at all schools in I-SS, making the change to a more energy efficient LED lighting system. The project will use up just under $6.8 million of the loan.

Recently, they tested the effectiveness of the new lighting system at East Iredell Middle School and found that the LED system reduced energy costs by more than 20 percent. That reduction was enough to draw the attention of their energy provider who thought the school had a broken meter.

“As soon as we get this project done, we will start seeing a 40 percent reduction in our energy bill,” James said. “That, at a minimum, is $500,000.”

The remainder of the loan, just over $2 million, will be used to upgrade the air quality systems within some of the older schools in the county.

“We’re trying to be forward thinking,” James said. “If we can get bipolar ionization into these schools, we’ll be ahead of the game.”

The processes to begin the work on the air quality improvements has already begun as the school system awaits the funding. The goal is to get both of these projects done as quickly as possible.

Other issues addressed at Tuesday’s commissioner’s meeting:

  • A presentation of conceptual plan for improvements to the entrance of the Iredell County Solid Waste Facility on Twin Oaks Road.
  • A request from solid waste for approval of a budget transfer to purchase two new road tractors.
  • A request from tax administration for approval of December 2020 refunds and releases.

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