OXFORD — The State Department of Education has unanimously approved using part of a $1 million energy efficient contract with Siemens Building Technology to convert some 600 lights at SAD 17 schools to LED fixtures.

The project, to switch out the lighting and to convert two oil burners to wood pellet burners, is being financed through a state bond program.

Although officials at the Qualified School Construction Bonds program approved the $1,024,807 funding during the summer, they only OK’d the district’s use of it to provide two wood pellet boilers to replace oil-fired boilers at Guy E. Rowe School in Norway and Oxford Elementary School.

The board was required to submit an amended application to allow part of that funding to be used for LED lighting.

The lighting  project will covert some 200 exterior lights and 400 interior lights to LED fixtures, saving the district about 136,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. The conversion is for exterior lighting at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris and Harrison, Waterford, Otisfield and Oxford elementary schools, and interior lighting at the high school auditorium, forum and hallways.

The lighting project “is moving ahead,” Superintendent Rick Colpitts said.

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The district has contracted with Siemens Building Technologies Inc. for both projects.

The boiler project, which will save about 25,000 gallons of oil, cost $752,685. The new heating units are expected to be installed for the upcoming heating season.

While the financial news was good on that front, Colpitts said it appears it will be more difficult to get state reimbursement for leasing costs at the new Oxford Middle School South Campus in Oxford.

The Oxford Hills School District board of directors approved the submission of an application Monday night to recover leasing expenses, with the expectation that they may not come.

If the state approved the five-year agreement, it would reimburse the district $176,000 of the $198,000 paid in years two through five, Colpitts said. There is no charge for using the building the first year, he said.

The state’s leased space program could reimburse the district for up to $8 per square foot. The lease would be at $9 per square foot.

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The directors approved leasing the Madison Avenue building in March to ease overcrowding at Oxford Hills Middle School in Paris. The 22,000-square-foot building has been used for classroom space at various times over the past two decades.

The building is owned by developer Bob Bahre of Alton, N.H.

“It’s doubtful the state will help us,” Colpitts said.

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