Marion School District wants out of Progress 'load reduction' agreement

Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 11:42 p.m.

Superintendent of Schools Jim Yancey said Tuesday that he is actively trying to get the Marion County School District out from under a "Load Reduction" agreement that allows Progress Energy to cut power at some schools during peak usage times.

He also said that, in his opinion, the agreement is not nearly as binding as he and other school officials originally thought.

The program saves the School District $300,000 annually. It allows Progress to cut service to 14 schools with limited notice. The utility did so between 6 and 10 a.m. Monday, when the morning temperature dipped to a record low of 18.

The move outraged some parents, teachers and students. It also sent officials scrambling to find the contract.

What they found surprised them.

As it turns out, Yancey said, it appears that the School District gave notice to end the contract in 1999 under former Superintendent John Smith.

Since the contract had a 60-month cancellation clause, the electric company wouldn't allow the contract to end until 2005.

Since 2005, the agreement has stayed in place and hadn't been questioned. And the School District has continued to accept its savings from Progress.

Yancey said Marion County Public Schools originally entered into a two-year contract with Progress, then known as Florida Power, in 1993.

In 1995, the School District entered into a five-year contract. Since Smith sent Progress the notice in 1999, it should have ended in 2005.

In 2003, Yancey became superintendent. After the contract expired in 2005, no one officially followed up, and the schools remained on the list.

Yancey said he plans to officially remove the School District from the list, effective immediately.

He will then let Progress Energy come to a School Board workshop so the board can decide if it wants to consider one-year contracts.

"We no longer enter into five-year contracts," said Yancey, adding that most all contracts are renewed annually.

Yancey said regardless of the events, or how they unfolded, the Progress Energy confusion was his responsibility since the contract expired on his watch.

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