Baldwin school board hears proposal to fix aging high school HVAC system
The Baldwin school board were told Monday it will cost more than $1.7 million to address problems the high school’s aging heating and air conditioning system.
Joe Hurla and Scott McVey of 360 Energy Engineers shared details of a review of the high school’s HVAC system and recommendations about how to address its inadequacies and approaching obsolescence. The system dates to the school’s construction in 1995.
The board has discussed for several months the need to address the high school’s HVAC system, which struggles to keep the school comfortable and — they feared — could completely fail.
There’s no cheap fix. The solution 360 Energy Engineers recommended would cost an estimated $1.75 million. Still, there was good news in that 360 Energy didn’t recommend the total replacement of the system, a solution that would come with a staggering $5 million price tag.
They could not make a prediction of when or if the system might have a catastrophic failure, Hurla said. He did note, however, the failure of a key part, such as at one of the air conditioning unit’s four compressors, would cost $20,000 to replace and that part would not be included in a coming systemwide upgrade.
McVey explained to the board the complete replacement of the entire system was expensive and impractical because it would involve the tearing out and replacement of piping and other infrastructure throughout the school. While a new, state-of-the-art system would yield greater energy efficiency, those savings during a 20-year span would not offset the upfront costs.
The current system could be made effective with the refurbishment of some components and the replacement of others near the end of their 20-year expected lifespan, many of which have moveable parts, McVey said. It would make use of newer technology, such as an air-cooled chiller and replacement of two hot-water boilers with non-condensing boilers.
Two other important parts of the HVAC that are currently doing an inadequate job are its control and ventilation systems. The inadequate performance of the two systems cause the musty environment of the basement locker rooms and poor air quality in rooms throughout the school, McVey said.
The air quality issue would be addressed with the refurbishment of the rooftop air-handling system and replacement of all in-room ventilation fans with more efficient and effective motors. The HVAC system would also be outfitted with new digital controls.
Also to be replaced in the recommendation would be a separate rooftop air conditions system for the weight room, McVey said.
Although not as cost efficient as a new system, the rebuilt HVAC would save the district $7,700 in utility and maintenance costs in its first year, 360 Energy estimated.
It would be best to do the upgrade at one time to save on contractor mobilization costs and because some of the school’s interior walls would have to be opened during the process, Hurla and McVey said. But in a nod to the district’s financial realities, they said the process could be done in stages that make it easier for the district to finance. The phased-in upgrade would increase the cost from 10 to 15 percent, Hurla estimated.
In recent discussions, the board has mention the possibility of a bond issue to cover the high school HVAC system replacement cost and two other expensive coming maintenance projects, the $300,000 replacement of the BESIC roof and $400,000 replacement of high school roof. However, Paul Dorathy said Monday he and Cindy Frick, district financial director, agreed it could be paid for with the district’s capital outlay fund rather than asking voters to approve a bond issue.
“I think that would be a very uphill battle because of where our mill levy is,” he said. “I think it is something we can do with our capital outlay, but it is going to tie up a big chunk of that money.”
A 15-year repayment plan 360 Energy provided had the district making annual payments of $157,000.
Hurla and McVey presented a project timetable that assumed it would take eight months to the district to arrange financing and for engineers to design the improvements. The upgrade’s installation, which could go forward during the school year, would take another 10 months, according to the timetable.
“I think this is something that really needs to happen,” Dorathy said. “How quickly depends on how we figure the financing."