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Center Grove adding geothermal wells; project to cost $1.2 million

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Geothermal energy will be used to heat and cool three Center Grove buildings later this year.

The school district will pay two companies more than $1.2 million to dig geothermal wells at Center Grove and North Grove Elementary schools. That amount will also cover the cost of a third well for the Professional Resource Center, which was formerly Maple Grove Elementary School and now houses the alternative academy and police department.

The wells will be several hundred feet deep and use water running through a tube to gather heat from ground water, which then runs back into the building for heating and cooling, director of maintenance Dave Statler said.

The school district should start saving money on energy costs over the next several years because of the wells, which typically require less electricity to operate, though officials haven’t calculated how much savings to expect, Statler said.

Center Grove plans to begin work on two $10 million projects at both elementary schools in May, and the school district will include the expense of the wells in the construction budget. The well for the Professional Resource Center will be paid for by borrowing money, property tax dollars Center Grove receives for building projects and savings the school district has after refinancing debt, Statler and assistant superintendent Bill Long said.

The school board unanimously approved all three wells. Work will begin immediately on the well outside the Professional Resource Center, and that should be complete by the end of July. Digging for the wells outside the two elementary schools will start in June and should be complete by September.

The wells will be several hundred feet deep, and during construction will have an opening between 4 and 6 inches in diameter. They will have fences and other barriers around them to ensure children can’t get hurt. Once the wells are complete, they will be permanently covered, Statler said.

“There’s no danger of any child falling into an opening,” Statler said.

School officials have always planned to include geothermal energy as part of the construction projects at the two elementary schools, Long and Statler said. Those projects, which should take at least a year-and-a-half to complete, will relocate the gymnasiums at both buildings. The schools’ cafeterias will also be renovated, giving students more space to eat during lunch. Teachers will also have more spaces to bring large groups of students.

Center Grove is also planning to make additional renovations to the Professional Resource Center, converting several classrooms so they can be used for the school district’s preschool and possibly a day care.

Later this year, construction is set to start on a building project at Center Grove High School. That project will widen some of the hallways, and add a tech bar, common area and cafe for students. The additions will give students more places to complete group and individual work. Center Grove is expecting to spend a total of $20 million on the renovations at both elementary schools, and $20 million on the high school renovations.

Taxpayers didn’t vote on the building projects because a vote isn’t required for elementary school construction projects that are under $10 million, or on high school construction projects that are under $20 million.

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