June 23, 2018
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Lee Academy rejects grant for energy renovations

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

LEE, Maine — Lee Academy would have been among eight organizations to split $11.4 million in stimulus funds aimed at funding alternative energy upgrades, but changing federal regulations make accepting the money unwise, Headmaster Bruce Lindberg said Tuesday.

The academy’s board of directors unanimously voted last week to reject a $300,000 grant to help buy a pellet boiler to heat three buildings and eliminate the need for about 26,600 gallons of fuel oil burned annually. Before the regulation change the project would have cost $745,000, Lindberg said.

With the Federal Environmental Protection Agency expected to tighten regulations of boiler emissions sometime next year, buying the European-made boiler would have increased the project’s cost by as much as 30 percent, Lindberg said.

“When we wrote the grant application, the emission standards were one thing and now they are higher,” Lindberg said Tuesday. “They are in the process of changing that, and the uncertainty of what the total project was going to cost us because of that made it so there was little sense in pursuing it further.”

The grants are the second round to be awarded under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. The energy grants first were announced in August 2009 and administered through the Maine Forest Service under the Maine Department of Conservation, state officials said.

The seven other energy conversion grants were slated to go to five school systems, one University of Maine project and one medical center project.

Lindberg would not rule out Lee Academy reapplying for another round of grant funding if the new EPA emissions regulations make that viable, but said that he and other school officials are researching other energy options for the school.

The energy plant makeover was Phase II of a three-phase renovation of the school. Phase I was finished in late August. It included the installation of a new elevator from the ground to the first floor of the school’s primary building, additional classrooms, new windows, a new and reinforced roof and new, heavier insulation.

Phase I cost about $600,000 and was the first major work done on the building since 1927.

Phase II likely will resume next summer, with Phase III beginning a year later, Lindberg said.

Lee is a semiprivate, independent boarding and day school that serves about 230 students from 23 Maine towns and boarding students from 16 states and two countries, according to its website, leeacademy.org.

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