District awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to fund necessary capital improvements
A combination of persistence and patience blended with good old-fashioned hard work has proven to be the winning formula for the Point Pleasant Borough School District with regard to the district’s recent pursuit of several state and federal grant funding opportunities.
On the heels of the successful bid for State funding to offset costs to complete the critical repairs made to district schools under the recent bond referendum, the district has secured additional state and federal funds to support, safety upgrades to district schools; the transition to more energy efficient equipment; and the purchase and installation of new generators for the middle and high school.
“Without meticulous planning and diligence, the cost to maintain the Point Pleasant Borough School District’s more than half a million square feet of building space and property would be astronomical,” said Point Pleasant Borough School Business Administrator Steve Corso. “Fortunately, we have a proactive and fastidious team of professionals working in concert to oversee building operations, who provide regular maintenance and continually assess building systems. This daily oversight coupled with strategic and timely capital improvements and repairs helps keep costs in line - albeit still rather high, which is why, to further reduce the costs of facilities maintenance and capital projects, the district remains committed to the aggressive pursuit of alternative funding sources for capital projects.”
According to Mr. Corso, the district’s philosophy of, “if there’s money, we go for it,” has paid off – literally - yielding nearly half a million dollars over the last several months in combined state and federal funds for various capital projects, including, $54,730 from the New Jersey SmartStart Buildings clean energy program; $144,412 from New Jersey’s Regular Operating Districts, or ROD, Grant program for school facilities projects; and, most recently, $237,000 from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
“Under New Jersey’s SmartStart Buildings program, the district received over $54,000 in rebates for the installation of energy efficient HVAC and electrical equipment and lighting,” said Mr. Corso. “Because these projects were included in and funded by the December 2013 bond referendum, the money the district received through the rebate program is separate from and in addition to the 40 percent state funding the district has previously secured through debt service aid.”
Additional cost savings were also realized thanks to the district’s successful pursuit of a New Jersey ROD Grant to fund security camera upgrades made throughout the district. The lengthy application process paid off when the district recouped 40 percent of the cost to install a number of new digital cameras and to replace some of the existing analog cameras.
The journey to the receipt of the district’s most recent funding award – a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant – was more than two years in the making.
The process began in March 2013, five months after Hurricane Sandy swept the Jersey Shore, and two grant applications, countless inquiries by FEMA, repeated consultations with engineers and other professionals and hundreds of man-hours, later, it concluded on July 23, 2015 when the district was notified that FEMA would be awarding the district a grant of $237,000.00 to install a new dual-fuel generator at the High School.
“Point Pleasant Borough High School has previously been used as a temporary emergency shelter for area residents during severe storms,” Mr. Corso said. “During Hurricane Sandy, the high school served a number of local residents for several days until they could be relocated to longer-term shelters.
“With predictions for potentially devastating storms increasing, the district decided to evaluate the generator’s performance relative to our needs,” he said. “The high school’s existing generator is more than 15 years old and it only generates 80 kilowatts of power, which is extremely limited. It basically generates enough to power emergency lighting and heating only. We need to be prepared to accommodate citizens for extended periods of time should our area face another catastrophic storm that causes prolonged power outages.”
In spring 2013, Mr. Corso began researching generators with the capacity to power more of the high school building’s systems.
“The high school building not only houses our district’s communications hub but also much of our cafeteria food and other resources,” he said. “A long-term power outage would likely result in costly food spoilage and also disrupt district communications. Because our district was the primary communication source for the Borough and police department during Hurricane Sandy, it is imperative we preserve communications in the event of future catastrophic storms.”
Mr. Corso was not deterred after the district’s first application - a joint application submitted with the town – was rejected, deciding to include the generator in the 2014-2015-district budget. But after hearing reports of a possible second round of grant funding, Mr. Corso chose to halt spending on the new generator, opting instead to submit a solo grant application on behalf of the district.
“As soon as the grant application period reopened, we were ready,” he said. “In late spring 2014, we submitted the new application, along with copious paperwork, utility bills, pictures and other information requested of the district and of our electrical engineer. Since that time, we have continued to submit additional paperwork based on FEMA’s requests, to which we immediately responded. It was only late last month that we learned our persistence paid off.”
Mr. Corso said the $237,000 grant covers about 92 percent of the project’s estimated $255,000 price tag. At the high school, the grant funds will be used to purchase a new 150 kW dual fuel generator, capable of powering the high school’s boiler plant, kitchen, cafeteria, gymnasium, locker rooms and data closets. A new generator will also be purchased for Memorial Middle School, which will operate the boiler plant, lights and temperature controls.
“Although the initial plan was to relocate the high school’s existing generator to Memorial Middle School, that plan was scrapped when FEMA’s grants administrator approved a modification to the grant proposal to reallocate some of the funds to purchase a new smaller generator for the middle school,” he said.
Mr. Corso said he expects to release the project’s bid specifications within the next couple months with installation likely occurring during summer 2016.
“The district takes very seriously the need to balance our long term needs and goals with the financial impact on the community,” said Superintendent of Point Pleasant Borough Schools Vincent S. Smith. “Successes like the receipt of these grants validate the hard work of Mr. Corso, our Board of Education and our Administration.”