Biomass project funding may go to voters

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OXFORD — Voters may have an opportunity to decide whether the Oxford Hills School District will secure a low-interest or no-interest bond to pay for a nearly $2 million biomass boiler project at the high school.

Earlier this month the Oxford Hills School District was awarded $750,000 by the state Department of Conservation to install a biomass furnace at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris. Officials are now eyeing a zero-interest loan to pay the remainder of the $1.8 million project, which is expected to begin saving the district as much as $150,000 a year in oil costs within the next few years.

Superintendent Mark Eastman told officials from the eight towns in the school district Wednesday night that he expects to go to the Board of Directors on April 5 to ask that a special referendum election be scheduled. The referendum would ask voters to allow the school department to secure a low-interest or no-interest bond.

The election would most likely be held on May 11, he said.

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The Oxford Hills School District project will include a wood-chip-storage unit inside an existing building at the high school and an extension of the boiler room to accommodate the boiler.

Eastman said several weeks ago that timelines have been arranged with Siemens, the company the district is working with on the project.

The proposed conversion project from oil to wood chips at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School was planned to address escalating fuel costs and to make the district more energy independent by reducing dependence on foreign oil, Eastman said.

Officials say the project will reduce the consumption of fossil fuel by 88,593 gallons or 90 percent of current usage. It will also reduce production of greenhouse gases by 1,232,436 pounds per year including 1,214,264 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Eastman said the school will operate on a wood chip, not wood pellet, system because it is the least expensive option for a wood boiler.

“The potential savings is significant,” he told town officials this week.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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