HOUGHTON - For Dan Crane, having a new gymnasium, new band room, new weight room and new classrooms for the Houghton-Portage Township School District is great, but the way the new construction was done will also save the district money.
"Beyond (the new facilities), we did many energy-efficiency changes," said Crane, who is president of the board of education.
The energy efficiencies are expected to save the district $3 million over 20 years, Crane said, and they've already saved $133,000 in energy costs.
Crane spoke Saturday in the new gymnasium during a dedication ceremony for the new construction. After his opening remarks, Houghton City manager Scott MacInnes thanked the school board for their "vision" in deciding to do the new construction.
MacInnes said he graduated from Houghton High School in 1970, but the facility was very different.
"We went from kindergarten to graduation in one building," he said.
MacInnes said people who have gone through Houghton-Portage Township schools realize later in life that experience contributed to the quality of life in Houghton.
"We have many people who want to move back to the area," he said.
Houghton and Portage Township voters in August 2008 approved extending an existing bond debt to pay for the $12.5 million project.
Bill Bingham, Portage Township supervisor, said the new construction included technology upgrades, which are needed to give students a complete education.
"It's important for the school's technology to remain up to date," he said.
The new construction features new security, also, Bingham said.
"The security system that's been installed in the school is a first-class system," he said.
Ron Stimac of energy-efficiency contractor, Johnson Controls, said the company has to pay the district if it doesn't save money as a result of those systems.
"We're guaranteeing those savings," he said.
Stimac also presented Crane with an energy-efficiency award for the effort taken to achieve energy efficiency in the new construction.
"You guys earned this award," Stimac said to Crane.
Houghton-Portage Township School District Superintendent Bill Polkinghorne said a 2007 state rule requiring boys and girls sports to take place at the same time of year meant another gym was needed to accommodate both.
"There had to be a way to fix it, and we fixed it," he said.
However, Polkinghorne said the board wanted a nice-looking structure.
"We wanted to have a facility that didn't look like a warehouse," he said.
Looking around the gym, Polkinghorne said that desire was realized.
The technology upgrades were an essential part of the new construction, Polkinghorne said.
"Our board members were the ones who were out front on this," he said. "The real benefit of all this is the technology for our students."
Kurt Hauglie can be reached at khauglie@ mininggazette.com.