EnCana invests in education | PostIndependent.com

EnCana invests in education

Amanda Holt MillerWestern Garfield County Staff

Garfield School District No. 16 will make energy-efficiency improvements to old buildings and add a vocational program this fall through a bond and a 10 percent matching grant from EnCana. District 16 was one of three school districts in Colorado to qualify for the interest-free $2.5 million national Zone Academy Bond. The other two were Fremont Re-1 in Carson City and School District 11 in Colorado Springs.”This was a lot of work,” said Todd Snidow, an investment banker with George K. Baum in Denver. Snidow has worked with the district on various financing projects for the past six years.”It would have been easy for the district to do a lease-purchase agreement, but they realized what a good deal this was for the taxpayers,” Snidow said.Since the district won’t have to pay interest on the $2.5 million loan, it will save about $1.3 million. But getting the bond was not easy, Snidow said. There are a couple of qualifiers that put the bond out of reach for a lot of districts. “The tough part is that the district has to be poor enough. Thirty-five percent of students have to qualify for the free or reduced lunch program,” Snidow said. “That’s one part. But the biggest part is finding someone to match 10 percent. That’s always been the holdup.”To qualify for the bond, districts have to find a private company or person to offer a 10 percent match. Snidow, who has worked on three other cases in Colorado, said he expected to have to make visits to all of the area gas production companies and ask them to support the district together. He was surprised and impressed to discover EnCana was willing to foot the entire cost.The $2.5 million bond will fund energy-efficiency improvements to district buildings. The improvements are expected to save the district about $100,000 a year in expenses.The $250,000 EnCana gift will be broken up over three years. It will pay to create and maintain a vocational program in the district’s north annex building, across the street from the Early Childhood Literacy Center. The vocational program will offer emergency medical technician courses, nursing and welding. Students can also take dual-credit classes, for both college and high school credit, there.Colorado Mountain College is teaching classes in the north annex and will continue to use the building, partnering with the school district and EnCana. CMC is donating instruction materials for the welding classes.The $250,000 matching grant EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) offered comes on the heels of a $3 million grant to CMC to build the college’s new Rifle campus.”One of the fundamental philosophies of the company is to make sure that the communities where we work and live are made stronger because we’re there,” said EnCana spokeswoman Florence Murphy.EnCana’s constitution calls for the company to give 1 percent of its profits back to the communities where it operates. The company focuses its contributions on education, health and wellness, the environment and community development.EnCana officials met with representatives from the school district and agreed to dedicate the $250,000 from EnCana to develop a vocational program. Murphy said EnCana will benefit from having a local skilled labor force to draw from instead of hiring gas well workers from out of state.District 16 superintendent Steve McKee asked visitors to the district office to read the mission statement on the wall Monday night, which reads, “As a result of our efforts, graduates will be confident, caring and contributing citizens successfully prepared for life.””Only 30 percent of our graduates go on to college,” McKee said. “If you don’t go to college, there’s not much for you to do in our complex world.”McKee said he hopes a vocational program will present Grand Valley High School graduates with the opportunity to stay in the community and still find good-paying jobs.”This is just really the way things are supposed to work,” Snidow said. “The school district needs money and a big energy company is helping a school district take a stab at conserving energy.”Contact Amanda Holt Miller at 625-3245 ext. 103ahmiller@postindependent.com

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