Trinity Day School reaps savings from MDA loan

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

A low-interest loan

provided by the Mississippi Development Authority already has reaped benefits for Trinity Episcopal Day School in Natchez, the first private school in the state to take advantage of the program.

For years, school leaders have recognized that old heaters, inadequate lighting and aging plumbing fixtures might be upgraded to produce a more energy-efficient complex.

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&uot;We started small with the desire to replace some malfunctioning air-conditioners, but the project grew to include a lot more,&uot; said Dr. Delecia Seay Carey, head of school. &uot;We’ve learned that the products being manufactured now are much more energy efficient.&uot;

The new products promised rewards not only in lowering some of the utility bills but also in conserving energy, a goal that suits the religious-based philosophy of the school of 317 students, pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

&uot;It never occurred to us to replace all the toilets,&uot; Carey said. &uot;But we did that. And the vacuum-assisted flush toilets are much more efficient.&uot;

Proof of water savings from new toilets as well as from new, more efficient faucets on the lavatories, came in the comparison of water bills from January 2003 and January 2004, which showed a drop from $918 to $650.

The project, now more than two years into the process, began in July 2002 with bids from a local contractor on replacing the air-conditioning units.

&uot;The bid was reasonable, but as we were looking at the building, we realized that it was poorly insulated; and we knew that part of the reason our existing units didn’t function better was because so much of the cold air leaked out through the old windows and under the doors,&uot; Carey said.

A tip about money available at the Mississippi Development Authority for energy-related projects sent Carey to Michael Ferdinand, executive director of the Natchez development authority.

&uot;He put me in touch with the MDA in Jackson,&uot; Carey said. &uot;Donnie Thompson came down to Trinity and conducted an informal energy audit.&uot;

Neither Ferdinand nor Thompson, an engineer in the MDA energy division, was available Thursday or Friday to comment on the project. However, Carey said both were central to the successful changes now under way.

Thompson told Trinity officials of obvious improvements in electricity and water usage they could make. The problem was that those changes would be expensive, and, unfortunately, the private school would not be eligible for an MDA loan.

Disappointed, Carey went ahead with the next step &045; getting a private company, Southern Company, to assess the school’s energy needs.

By January 2003, she heard that MDA rules had changed to allow Trinity to apply for one of the loans, a total of $300,000 at 3 percent below the New York prime rate. &uot;For us, it turned out to be 1 percent,&uot; Carey said.

The overall plan would include new lights across the campus, new heating and air-conditioning units, a remodeled middle school cafeteria that includes a dropped ceiling and new lights and new heat-cool units, all new toilets and sink fixtures and storm windows on every window across the campus.

&uot;Southern Company estimated that energy savings that result from this project ultimately will cover the cost of the note,&uot; Carey said.

Most of the buildings were built in the 1970s, with the air-conditioning units installed in the 1980s.

&uot;When this school was built in the 1970s, people thought it was fine for children to go to school without air-conditioning,&uot; she said. &uot;Later, when air-conditioning was added, not much thought was given to how to make the buildings more energy efficient.&uot;

Times have changed. The school is changing, too. &uot;The thinking about what is normal and acceptable has changed since 1970, and we have to be able to meet the requirements of our students and their families,&uot; she said. &uot;We don’t want to do ‘quick fixes’; rather, we want to be good stewards of not only our facilities but also our energy use.&uot;

The project may be complete by mid March, Carey said. This week, B M Electric Contractors of Natchez is working on changing all the lights in the school complex. Storm windows are going up. New heat-cool units are replacing the old ones.

&uot;The old heaters are so loud you have to turn them off when a student makes a presentation in front of the class,&uot; Carey said. &uot;And the sound makes it hard to teach over the noise, too.&uot;

Changes are nearing completion, however, and hopes for additional energy improvements are growing, Carey said. &uot;It would be great to have the new lighting technology on our football field, but that’s not in this project.&uot;