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Green Bay school board looks at energy conservation

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – The Green Bay school district wants a resolution committing to move to 100 percent clean energy over the next 20 to 30 years.

While there seems to be nearly unanimous support behind the idea, the steps to getting there are unclear.

The district’s interest follows suit with growing support across the state for energy conservation, including the City of Green Bay, which has already made a similar commitment.

The board discussed the topic at its meeting Monday, Jan. 6, following a presentation by Mike Stangel, executive director of facilities and related services, along with Seth Hoffmeister and Casey Hicks with Wisconsin Conservation Voters.

Hoffmeister is also the chair of the Green Bay Sustainability Commission.

Stangel highlighted changes the district has made over the past decade to reduce costs and become more energy efficient.

He said the district has seen significant decreases in gas and electric costs in part by installing digital energy management systems in all 44 school buildings, developing new HVAC control sequences, performing internal energy audits and many other upgrades and improvements.

“With each of these practices we have saved energy, we have saved natural resources, cut down on pollution, we’ve saved dollars and they’ll save in the future,” Stangel said.

Trustee Laura McCoy said she’s impressed with the steps toward energy conservation made by the district.

“I feel like this is really important, and I am ready to take the progress that Mike (Stangel) and his crew have made in our district and take it to the next level,” McCoy said. “I feel an urgency, I think we all do, and I am ready to do that. I feel like our city, our community and our district together can make this happen. The details are complicated. The commitment is huge, but I am personally ready to go there.”

Stangel said there is a long ways to go.

“Technology keeps changing, so I think it’s going to be a continuous project,” he said. “Five years ago, we would have never put in LED lighting because the cost was to high. Now, the cost has come down so much that LED is now a no-brainer. We’ll see other things come down in cost too, making things more reasonable to do than years ago.”

The board agreed energy conservation is a good thing, but what it looks like – and whether that includes passing a resolution – is unknown.

Trustee Rhonda Sitnikau said she wants to know what passing a resolution will do.

“I look at how this will actually happen,” she said. “I love resolutions when I know there are teeth to them and that there is something that can actual come out of it. And we can really cook with gas as far as to reach the goals. I am not interested in lofty, feel-good, warm-fuzzy things that don’t really have any direction. And I’m not saying this is the case. This is just where I sit with this.”

Sitnikau said it isn’t an issue of not agreeing something needs to be done, it’s more about being realistic.

McCoy said any resolution the board passes needs to be able to withstand changes that could come politically.

“The people change, the players change,” she said. “Whatever we do as a board, we’ll have to be able to kind of spell out what future boards will have to do.”

Board President Brenda Warren said if the board is committed to making something happen, the first step is signing a resolution, but immediately behind that, is identifying the next steps.

“We need somebody in our district that is on point, that this is what they oversee,” she said. “They are the one you (Hicks and Hoffmeister) contact, the one who has the information and are looking for opportunities. I don’t know who that person is, but to me that would be the first step in terms of our internal work. I think we also need a group of people that work with that person to do the work to put forth a two-year, five-year, 10-year kind of plan.”

Over the next several weeks, interested board members and staff will meet with Stangel, Hicks and Hoffmeister to work on a potential resolution.

No date has been set on when the resolution will be brought back to the board.

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