A $1.75 million bond was approved Tuesday morning that has administrators at Brenau University seeing green.
The Gainesville Redevelopment Authority approved the final terms of the bond that provides Brenau University with money to update heating and air systems throughout its 50-acre main campus, allowing them to install an energy efficient system that’s good for the environment and for the University’s budget.
The private activity bond was approved at a short meeting held at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. The University is obligated to repay the bond by 2017.
Wayne Dempsey, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Brenau University, said they plan to repay the bond with funds saved from lowered energy costs as a result of the new and more energy efficient air and heating systems.
Until recently, the university’s heating was generated by a 45-to-50-year-old boiler system.
"Their current system is pretty antiquated," said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
The Brenau school was established in 1878 and features many historic buildings on its Gainesville campus. The 747 students enrolled in the Women’s College and 1,420 more evening and weekend students are likely to have more comfortable classrooms as a result of the updated heating and air system.
Dempsey said several buildings on campus have inefficient heating and air systems.
He cites the 27-year-old heating and air system in the John W. Jacobs Communication Building as a primary example of the university’s problem.
"We’ve had heating and air conditioning problems in that building for years," Dempsey said. "If it became extremely cold, the heat would go out. If it got really hot, the air conditioning was no longer capable of cooling the building."
Dempsey said that construction began on the overhaul of heating and air systems in 14 campus buildings in July, and the project should be completed by mid-November.
Construction has been completed on 10 buildings at this point, he said.
He added that another aspect of the project was to ensure that all fluorescent lights on campus had an electronic ballast that reduces the temperature required for bulbs to glow, therefore providing electric lighting at greatly reduced energy costs.
"(The project) becomes dollar-back green for the University because we’re already paying this money out of utilities and not seeing anything as a result of it," he said. "So with higher-efficiency equipment with guaranteed savings without having to have a huge capital investment to come up with new monies to service that investment, we’ll be using monies already being spent to service the investment of the bond."
Dempsey added that several buildings on campus are regularly used for community events, such as the lobby at Yonah Hall that was previously used without air conditioning or heating.
"Often whatever’s good for Brenau is good for the community," Evans said. "Brenau is such an important part of the community."
The Georgia Foundation for Independent Colleges estimates that the annual economic impact of the university on Hall County is more than $68 million.