Editor’s note: This news release was updated Nov. 18.
Farmington, Maine — The University of Maine System (UMS) Board of Trustees approved spending $11.7 million on facility upgrades that will help the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) conserve energy and reduce costs.
The authorization Monday during the board’s regular meeting, held at UMF, allows the university to pursue an energy savings performance contract with the company Trane to execute various energy conservation measures in more than 30 buildings. The measures include interior and exterior lighting system upgrades; building envelope improvements; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) duct and piping insulation; water fixture updates, aging or end-of-life HVAC equipment replacements, building automation system (BAS)/energy management control system (EMCS) enhancements; and the instillation of a second biomass boiler to mitigate or eliminate the use of propane and fuel oil.
The project also will involve installing and linking a software platform to the building BAS/EMCS that will provide detailed analytics and ongoing system commissioning to continuously monitor and improve building system operational performance. Work for the overall project is expected to begin in December and conclude within 18 months.
In the first-year of operation, UMF expects to decrease its energy consumption and costs by 30%, resulting in $400,000 in savings. Installing a second biomass boiler will allow the university to obtain renewable energy credits (RECs), providing it another revenue stream.
Over the course of the 20-year contract with Trane, which will include monitoring the performance of the various additions and upgrades, UMF expects to generate about $12 million in savings and about $4 million in REC revenue. The project also aims to decrease overall campus building energy intensity, improve building operations and the learning environment, free up UMF capital funds for investments in other needed areas and help the university achieve its carbon reduction goals and overall sustainability commitments.
The effort will be financed through an $11 million Master Equipment Lease/Purchase Agreement Energy Addendum with Banc of America Public Capital Corp. That will be repaid from savings earned through the project, with any residual amount funded by UMF.
“It is exciting, and it’s good news,” said Board Chair Trish Riley about the project.
Chancellor Dannel Malloy announced during the meeting that a memorandum of understanding for multi-university academic programs and courses, a critical step toward expanding students’ access to academic offerings across the System, was signed by all university presidents. That agreement, which the board will consider approving at a later date, reduces and clarifies the steps needed for a student from one UMS university to take a course at another, including how class size will be managed and how the revenue will be shared between the institutions involved.
The agreement is related to the System’s Unified Catalog Initiative and coincides with the work for unified accreditation. The Unified Catalog aims to expand students’ ability to enroll in courses and view schedules from across UMS universities. Through the initiative, students also will be able enroll in a collaboratively delivered multi-university course or program. MaineStreet also is being redeveloped as part of the RePaving MaineStreet initiative.
“This agreement is a major step forward in respect to making it easier for students and will hopefully lead to a cross pollination between the universities and their students that we have only experienced on a very small scale, and make it possible to be experienced on a much larger scale,” Malloy said.
The board also was informed that thanks to a UMS-wide enrollment campaign that ran from the spring to the start of classes in August, universities experienced higher late enrollment than they have in years past. Malloy said the success of the campaign prompted UMS to launch another targeted toward prospective students at the end of the month.
“Presuming that it is as successful as our summer program was, that may become a regular tool and would begin even earlier than the month of November,” he said.
Malloy also announced that he has launched a round of office hours during his university visits due to the turnout at his previous sessions. He said he hosted office hours at UMF last week, and will soon visit the University of Southern Maine’s (USM) Gorham campus and University of Maine School of Law (Maine Law) later this week.
The board authorized two new academic programs on Monday: a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Business Information Systems and Security Management at the University of Maine (UMaine), and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering at USM.
The creation of the new degree at UMaine responds to a growing need among employers in the state for workers with backgrounds in business information systems and security management. During its development, faculty from the Maine Business School at UMaine and the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) determined course equivalencies, which resulted in the establishment of new coursework options at both institutions for students in the business information systems and security management program and UMA’s Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity program.
The new program at USM was designed to address demand for industrial engineering professionals. Students pursuing the degree will be trained to solve complex problems in various current and emerging industries, such as health care, manufacturing, business logics, transportation and tourism. With it, USM hopes to graduate future leaders in engineering, business and systems optimization that can sustain Maine’s growing industrial sectors.
The board also authorized multiple universities to negotiate and enter into leasing agreements with University Credit Union.
Additionally, trustees approved FY23 proposed operating budget revisions for four universities: UMA, USM, the University of Maine at Fort Kent and the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Most changes reflect enrollment, residence hall occupancy and general operating expenses.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 29–30 at UMA.
About the University of Maine System
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System (UMS) unites seven Maine’s distinctive public universities, comprising 10 campuses and numerous centers, in the common purpose of providing quality higher education while delivering on its traditional tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service.
In 2020 UMS became the first and only statewide enterprise of public higher education in the country to transition to a unified accreditation for the system. Much different than a merger or consolidation, unified accreditation is a new operating model for the University of Maine System that removes the primary barrier to inter-institutional collaboration.
A comprehensive public institution of higher education, UMS serves more than 30,000 students annually and is supported by the efforts of more than 2,000 full-time and part-time faculty, more than 3,000 regular full-time and part-time staff, and a complement of part-time temporary (adjunct) faculty.
Reaching more than 500,000 people annually through educational and cultural offerings, the University of Maine System also benefits from more than two-thirds of its alumni population residing within the state; more than 123,000 individuals.
The System consists of seven main campuses: The University of Maine (UMaine), including its regional campus the University of Maine at Machias (UMaine Machias); the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA); the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF); the University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI); and the University of Southern Maine (USM). The System also includes a UMA campus in Bangor, USM campuses in Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn, the University of Maine School of Law, and the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center.