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updated: 9/4/2012 7:35 PM

Grass Lake Dist. 36 waiting for state cash to help LED lighting conversion

Grass Lake district's conversion on hold

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  • Terry O'Brien

    Terry O'Brien

  • Video: Teacher on LED in classroom


Grass Lake Elementary District 36 in the Antioch area is waiting for a $50,000 state grant that would partially fund a conversion to what officials consider to be more environmentally friendly lighting.

Terry O'Brien, principal and superintendent of the 220-student district on Grass Lake Road, said Tuesday plans had called for a conversion from fluorescent to light emitting diode technology to be in place for the start of the 2012-13 academic year. The total cost was projected at $100,000, he said.

However, O'Brien said, the move to what District 36 officials believe would be a "green" and money-saving way to illuminate Grass Lake School remains on hold. He said that's because the Illinois State Board of Education has yet to forward the $50,000 grant that would pay for half the project's cost.

O'Brien said District 36 submitted an application for the maximum $50,000 from the state's School Maintenance Grant Program on April 27. He said the district was notified Aug. 24 that the application was accepted but the money had yet to arrive as of Tuesday.

About $50 million is supposed to be set aside for the School Maintenance Grant Program, state officials have said. Approved schools can receive up to $50,000 in matching funds for maintenance or upkeep of buildings or other structures for education reasons.

State Board of Education spokeswoman Mary Ann Fergus said while District 36's grant has been approved, it must wind through more channels before reaching the comptroller's office, where checks are cut.

"I don't have a definitive date for distribution of the funds, but it's definitely moving through the process," Fergus said.

District 36 should save money because it's projected that energy consumption would be reduced by 60 percent to 70 percent with LEDs, O'Brien said. Work on the project -- including new equipment to accommodate the LED bulbs -- would occur this year if the state cash comes in.

"Ideally, it would make a nice winter break project," O'Brien said.

Grass Lake's LED conversion would include interior and exterior lighting, officials said.

Proponents say LEDs use less energy, last longer and are sturdier than traditional incandescent lights. Critics, such as the International Dark-Sky Association, contend LEDs boost glare and compromise human vision.

Other local governments have used state grants to help fund the switch from long, thin fluorescent bulbs to LED. The Lake Zurich Fire Department received about $8,000 in state grant money three years ago for LED installation in what was hoped to be a move for greater energy efficiency and cost savings.

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