Mild winter saves city money

Monday, May 10, 2004

If you have a question, e-mail or call Speak Out (334-5111) and identify your call as a question for "Fact or fiction?"Q: Did Cape Girardeau save any money on snow removal due to the mild winter?

A: Tim Gramling, city public works director, says there is no typical year for snow-removal costs. If materials are not used in one year, they are stockpiled for future needs. However, one clear activity-based cost is the amount of overtime used to remove snow. Gramling estimates the city saved between $8,000 and $10,000 in overtime because of the mild winter.Q: Is it true that they are running both the heating and air conditioning all day every day at Central High School at a cost of $150,000?

A. Cape Girardeau School District superintendent Mark Bowles says the high school is not running both the heating and air conditioning at the same time, at least not in the traditional sense of these terms. Where some confusion about the issue has arisen is that the system designed for the new building does warm the air to remove humidity even on days when the same air is later chilled. That part of the process is normal.

However, Bowles and the school board are not happy with another aspect of the high-tech system. The superintendent said the new system is modeled after those in use by facilities like hospitals, which necessitate a narrow range of temperatures.

"When we raised our set point temperatures (heating on at 70 or below, air conditioning on at 78 or above), the dehumidifying process of the system actually resulted in warming nearly all of the rooms, maintaining temperatures at or near 78 even when outside air temperatures were considerably lower," Bowles explained.

"Ironically, the system is functioning as it was designed. Unfortunately, it was designed to operate over a much narrower range of temperatures. We have enlisted the help of a firm specializing in HVAC systems to explore the possibility of modifying the system that will allow it to increase our energy savings while at the same time keeping our classrooms more comfortable."

As for the operational cost of the system, Bowles said that it is running at an annual baseline cost of about $1.20 per square foot. That equals roughly $247,000 for the 206,000-square-foot building.

"Engineers that have worked on the system indicate that the cost should be closer to $1 per square foot," said Bowles. "That could save as much as $40,000 to $50,000 per year in utilities. We are analyzing the recommendations from the HVAC specialists on their ability to achieve this."Q. I've heard Jay Knudtson refer to himself as a hockey player. Did he really play a lot of hockey growing up?

A. Yes, he did. He also was a professional hockey referee at one time.

"Growing up in Minnesota I was surrounded by ice rinks and hockey," said Knudtson, who is the mayor of Cape Girardeau. "Hockey was my favorite sport, but I excelled at baseball until tearing my rotator cuff at the University of Minnesota.

"I had always officiated hockey growing up, but when my shoulder blew out I really focused on officiating and basically did it on a full-time basis for three years.

"I worked the U.S. Hockey League and the International Hockey League and traveled the country. One of my real highlights was being chosen to work the Olympic Sports Festival in Lake Placid. I even worked a game on the very sheet of ice where the U.S. team won the gold in 1980."

Jon K. Rust is co-president of Rust Communications.

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