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Paid for with alcohol tax funds

By JESSE YEATMAN

Staff writer

Chopticon, Great Mills and Leonardtown high schools will get new gymnasium lighting this year, using state funds collected from the tax on alcohol.

The money comes from the hike in the tax on alcoholic beverages tax put in place by the Maryland General Assembly in 2012. St. Mary’s public schools’ total allocation is $290,000.

Larry Hartwick, supervisor of design and construction, told the school board during a February meeting that school staff first considered replacing windows at a school with more energy-efficient ones, but then decided the high school lighting would be a better use of the funds.

“They consume a lot of energy,” Hartwick said of the lights.

Hartwick said the new metal halide lights and fixtures will reduce energy use by 15 percent and will also improve lighting quality in the three schools’ gymnasiums and auxiliary gymnasiums. Great Mills will also get new lights in its cafeteria and media center.

All of the work will be done by the start of next school year, Hartwick said.

The new lights also have a cool-down time that is about half that of the current lights, meaning they can be turned back on quicker in the event of a power outage, Hartwick said.

School board member Cathy Allen said that while she is glad the money could be used for the new lighting, she was not happy that the money was distributed by region instead of by county. The General Assembly raised the tax on alcoholic beverages from 6 to 9 percent in 2011, with the assumption that some of that money would be used for schools.

The school board members voted to award a $235,000 contract to Amber Enterprise Inc. They also added a construction contingency of $43,500; the remaining money will be used for design.

A lower bid submitted by Lighting Services and Supplies did not provide a required letter of surety stating that performance and payment bonds would be provided. The school board rejected that bid. Amber had the second lowest bid, which was about 20 percent higher than Lighting Services and Supplies, Hartwick said.

jyeatman@somdnews.com