From a the first of two articles by Adam Wise in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune:

Note: This is the first of a two-part report on how the Wisconsin Rapids School District is spending money that residents approved in a 2006 referendum. The second story will appear Friday.

Wisconsin Rapids School District leaders plan to cope with rising utility costs by increasing energy efficiency with money approved through the referendum process.

A little more than two years ago, residents in the district approved a four-question, approximately $10 million referendum for building, technology and curriculum upgrades.

With most of the money — about $8.3 million — slated for district facilities, Buildings and Grounds Director Tom Helgestad and staff members developed a three-year plan to conduct a majority of the work during the district’s summer breaks.

As an example of the upgrades, Helgestad said the district achieved an almost 45 percent decrease in natural gas usage at Grove Elementary School after replacing the old heating system.

“Because of the age of the equipment, our infrastructure and heating systems were between 50 and 60 years old,” said Helgestad, specifically referring to Howe, Mead, and Grove elementary schools. “They were at the end of their life; parts were unavailable. We had to retrofit to keep things going.”

Wisconsin Rapids School Board members have been receiving periodic updates from Helgestad regarding the progress of the three-year plan.

“We’re actually going to be able to save even though the prices have gone up,” board member Mary Rayome said.