Mahomet-Seymour to vote on HVAC performance contract with Ameresco

The Mahomet-Seymour School Board will vote Monday to award Ameresco $750,000 to implement HVAC controls at Mahomet-Seymour High School.

This will be the sixth amendment to a 2013 performance contract. Ameresco has also served as the performance contractor on projects such as the press room and chiller at Mahomet-Seymour High School, and bleachers at Mahomet-Seymour High School. , among others.

Earlier this year, the district allocated $422,000 of ESSER III money to go towards HVAC checks at Mahomet-Seymour High School. The extra dollars will be offset by sales tax that is currently in the Site and Building Fund, among other things.

The HVAC control project is something that was first publicly discussed in 2019.

The information presented to the council on September 12 included several options, including the $750,000 option that will update controls throughout the building instead of targeted areas, but council members Jeremy Henrichs, Colleen Schultz and Meghan Hennesy expressed concern about the lack of detail for this amount. silver. They were also concerned that the project would be put out to tender to ensure the best price and the best solution for the neighborhood.

Superintendent Kenny Lee noted a performance contract the school board entered into with Ameresco in 2013. A Google search of this document showed that in 2012 the district solicited a Request for Proposals (RFP) for “the implementation of work of energy equipment; repair, upgrade, and maintenance services at various locations on a performance contract basis as defined by the State of Illinois, Section 5/19b, School Energy Conservation and Savings Measures of the School Code (105 ILCS/5).

The document shows that Ameresco helped to prepare the tender specifications.

The total amount of savings the district is promised to see is not defined at this point. These details will be presented if the performance contract is awarded to Ameresco. Still, deals like this aren’t unusual, and the district has signed similar deals with Ameresco before.

Below 105 CITA 5/Art. 19bschool districts can circumvent requirements that contracts must be awarded to low bidders when improvements are expected to reduce energy costs by an amount sufficient to pay for the work.

The law states: “The contract must provide that all payments, except for obligations in the event of termination of the contract before its expiry, must be made in time and that the savings are guaranteed to the extent necessary to pay the costs. energy saving measures. Energy savings can include energy curbing and offsetting sources of renewable energy funds, including renewable energy credits and carbon credits.

As part of a guaranteed energy savings contract, the savings measurement methods used to determine the energy savings achieved by the projects must be specified.

Even after installing energy efficient transformers and lighting in the Ball-Chatham School District was over, community members realized that the district had received no guarantees that the savings would pay the $2.2 million. work done by Ameresco. These community members, who were also former school board members, filed a lawsuit against the Massachusetts-based company that develops renewable energy projects and makes buildings energy efficient for government agencies across the states. -United. Taylorville joined the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claimed the contract was supposed to ensure that the energy savings would cover the cost of work that included the installation of energy-efficient transformers and lighting in the schools. But an attachment to the contract, which neither the school board nor the district attorney saw before the paperwork was signed, voided any guarantee that the savings would cover the cost of the work, according to the Illinois Times report.

An attachment to the contract, however, stated that all energy savings were stipulated as having been achieved, rather than having been proven by objective measurement of energy savings.

Board members saw that their former superintendent also had dinner with Ameresco before the contract was approved and claimed that those discussions led to the performance contract. The claim included that the former superintendent also worked with Ameresco to some extent.

A community member in the Hillsboro Community School District also filed a lawsuit against their district after $7 million. payment to Ameresco for bathroom renovations and roofing work at a school. The agreement guaranteed energy and operating savings over a 20-year period, but, according to a Franczek blog post, the Board has waived any audit, measurement or recapture of all but a minor fraction of these savings, and has not conducted any independent assessment to assess the likelihood of actually realizing the stipulated savings. The taxpayer believed that violated Section 19b of the School Code.

The case, however, was dismissed because the “taxpayer did not file his complaint until about four years after the Commission entered into the original agreement with Ameresco, three years after the bonds were issued to pay for the work and more one year. after all construction has been completed and all payments have been made.

In an interview, Lee said contract changes to the original 2013 deal are what keep the board informed of the scope of each project.

Hennesy said the council had received emails from other vendors who said they could do the job for less than was quoted by Ameresco. Although the names of these suppliers were not disclosed, it was said that the district was not happy with the previous work and that Steve Curtis, facilities manager, was “not a big fan” of this company. .

Ameresco, however, wouldn’t actually do the job once it was set. The board is expected to receive further details on Monday morning.

Ameresco would act as the contractor for the project and hire other companies, possibly even some that have previously worked on systems at Mahomet-Seymour, to complete each task. As a performance contractor, they would then be responsible for guaranteeing both the energy savings they predict and the equipment for the next 20 years. The district would pay no more than $750,000 for the project.

Since July 2017, the Mahomet-Seymour School District has spent $841,859.38 on HVAC repairs across the district. Looking through card packs during this time, it’s hard to tell how much of that money went to repairs at Mahomet-Seymour High School, but companies like Davis-Houk, Davis Electric, and Alpha Controls consistently make the list of bills for HVAC repairs. . BRiC Partnership, LLC is also listed in the Board’s Invoice List for “the investigation and documentation of all building HVAC systems”.

A host of other businesses are must-visits for the Mahomet-Seymour district. Some of these companies were pointed out to Lee last week when asked if the district had any other contracts like a “performance contract.”

Since these invoices are for less than $25,000, the work does not have to be tendered or approved by council. Without this process, it is difficult to know how the district chooses the companies it works with on each project.

This issue has been raised at previous board meetings and was reiterated last Monday. Schultz said that without a bidding process, companies, like Ameresco, can bid whatever price they want and get the contract.

For example, Mahomet Daily reports showed that Davis-Houk has been paid at least $1,319,715.60 by the district since July 2017 for various maintenance repairs, like HVAC and plumbing. Davis-Houk donated $1,000 to the Bulldog Blueprint PAC to support the referendum.

This is just one example of vendors working or potentially working on a project by donating money to a district cause.

Schultz and Hennesy brought up this “quid pro quo” idea during the September study session.

A 2021 article in the Mahomet Daily showed that Ameresco purchased a dinner for three board members and district employees at Fogo De Chao during the IASB conference in Chicago in 2021. During this event, the district also hosted dinners, drinks and hors d’oeuvres provided by other vendors, such as BLDD, the official architect; Core Construction, which also donated to the Bulldog Blueprint and donated to projects in the district; Stifel, underwriter of K-12 school bonds, including those of Mahomet-Seymour; and Franczek, one of the district attorneys. Stifel also donated money to the Mahomet-Seymour Education Foundation at the district’s request and noted in a referendum bond subscription agreement.

When asking the district to bid on this project, Schultz asked the council, “How do we decide (who to use)? Whoever takes us out to dinner buys us a $100 steak? Is this the one we use?

Lee said that if the council did not feel comfortable with the avenue of the performance contract, which would not be tendered at this time, the council could choose to tender the work that needs to be done to put the HVAC system. from high school up to date. standards, relieving the building of problems, such as temperature variations from place to place in the building.

Curtis said that by doing so, there could be engineering costs that would be added to the bid. Hennesy said she believes the contract should include the scope of engineering that needs to be done, as well as all installation, mechanics, hardware and should include a maintenance agreement with terms throughout the life of the contract. contract length.

The district has budgeted $400,000 for HVAC maintenance and repairs throughout the district in the fiscal year 2023 budget. This money will go toward repairs and is not part of the $750,000 for this project.

Here are the documents provided by the district regarding the contracts with Ameresco

Here’s how the Mahomet-Seymour School District has spent or will spend the ESSER money

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