The Reynoldsburg school district will spend $11.3 million to solve heating and cooling issues that have plagued a number of district buildings over the past few years.

Treasurer Tammy Miller said the contract with the energy company Dynamix also includes an option to add further HVAC improvements and LED lighting for an additional $4.1 million.

School board member Debbie Dunlap said she was happy to vote for the contract at the Oct. 17 board meeting.

"I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders," she said. "After years of struggling with heating and cooling issues in our schools -- a situation that has recently become critical --the board approved a solution to this problem."

Superintendent Melvin Brown said the cooling systems were inadequate in several buildings, especially in the warmest summer months when students were practicing sports and attending sports workshops.

"Buildings were warm and people were uncomfortable," he said. "We came to a conclusion that significant infrastructure needed to be replaced and rebuilt.

"Now we want our buildings to be warm this winter," he said. "Once we start this project, we won't have buildings with no heat and our system will do what it is supposed to do."

Miller said the board authorized her to secure financing of up to $15.5 million at an interest rate not to exceed 4.5 percent, to cover the project.

"We will bid out the loan in mid-November and close by mid-January," she said. "At that time, we'll only borrow what we need to cover the project."

The payment amount will depend on the interest rate, length of the loan and the amount borrowed, Miller said.

She said the estimated annual payment would be in the $800,000 to $1 million range for a 15-year loan, if the board opts for the $11.3 million work package.

If the extra $4.1 million worth of HVAC work were added, the estimated payment would be $1 million to $1.3 million annually, Miller said.

Dunlap said she was at Taylor Road Elementary last year when staff and students experienced a major issue.

"It was so warm that another parent and I started up a snowcone machine," she said. "This has been a chronic problem in our schools."

Director of Operations Chris Reed said the average energy cost over the last six years was $1.50 per square feet, but that was before the past summer, when critical HVAC issues were discovered.

"We are now paying over $3 per square foot," he said.

He said the average cost for most school districts is 98 cents per square foot.

"We have been spending so much money trying to keep our systems fixed at the Band-Aid level that we couldn't stop the bleeding," he said.

Board President Joe Begeny said he looks at $11.3 million as a "long-term investment."

"You get what you pay for," he said. "Because we have been fiscally responsible in the past, we can do this now. We won't have the issues we have had in the past and it will save us a great deal on maintenance costs."

Miller said the district's electric bill was $1.4 million in the last fiscal year.

Dynamix estimated an energy cost reduction of $318,818 over a 12-month period after the project is finished. It's expected to take about 18 to 20 months for all of the improvements. The company also provides one year of monitoring and fine-tuning of the systems.

"We have received assurances that there will be no concern about the ability to heat our buildings in the coming weeks," Brown said.