DERBY – Robert Favali, a director at DuBois & King Inc., presented an assessment proposal for the existing mechanical and plumbing systems at the North Country Union Junior High School board meeting recently.
The school was constructed in 1957 and an addition was built in 1990. Favali advised the school board that even the 1990 building's modernized temperature control package needs replacement.
“After 25 years, the devise doesn't work. I realize the school suffers from the need to fund the building construction, to try to control planned replacements, but at some point you have to respond to a problem and the expense of a planned repair is way less than reacting to a problem,” Favali stated. “The school has hot and cold spots, some rooms are overheated, other places like the bathrooms are cold.”
Favali observed one problem is caused by turning on the exhaust fan in the kitchen. “You don't have make up air,” he explained. “When you vent air and blow it out of the building, you need to make it up somewhere. Usually that would be a source right at the site, but the school doesn't have that.”
Favali explained that the heat in the bathrooms is being sucked into the kitchen. “It's heated air you're exhausting, which is costing you money.”
Another problem are the pumps, which must be turned on manually and once operating run full time at full speed. “We can work with Efficiency Vermont (EV) with regard to the pumps and motors. EV can do an assessment of the savings that can be realized if you change the pumps. They should be turned on automatically to perform efficiently,” said Favali. “The utility company likes it because it will save electric usage.”
The main areas Favali's company would like the board to focus on are the control panels, pumps, motors, and the ventilation system. “The decision on what to focus on first can be calculated by the savings in efficiency versus repair costs,” stated Favali.
“We are considering a tiered process to replace the equipment,” said board chair Deb Cogan. “The board can consider bonding for some of the work, and other items can be replaced through the existing budget.” She added, “We want to make any bonding requests to be coordinated supervisory union wide. Put it all out there so taxpayers know what we're doing, at the elementary school level, junior high and high schools.”
Noting the high school is considering asking taxpayers to approve a bond for upgrades to the A and B wings, board member Richard Nelson agreed. “What we do at the junior high school affects five towns and it would be irresponsible of us to not let taxpayers know what we want for the schools moving forward.”
Board member Kristen Mason noted that it always sweetens the deal if “we can tell people how much the upgrades will save in future budgets, as well as what if any rebates we may receive for upgrading the heating and ventilation systems. We need to know what helps to offset the cost of the project.”
Efficiency Vermont will be contacted to have them conduct an energy audit. If the board accepts Favali's proposal, his company will work with Efficiency Vermont to perform a complete assessment of the building's mechanical and plumbing systems. This includes pumps, piping, distribution, building controls, code compliance and water conservation measures.
The board is considering a tiered approach although Favali warned, “A tiered approach means the second, third and fourth tiers will cost more. As a board, you can loose momentum. You can have a sum total approach where you bond for the complete renovation or you can use a tiered approach.” He cautioned the board: “You have to follow through or it will cost you more.”
Member Richard Cartee agreed. “When you do it piecemeal, like taking down the ceiling, and then coming back in two years to do more work, it cost more money that way.”
Cartee noted that a committee came up with a priority list. “Some things can go into a bonding issue and other things can be budgeted as in-house repair items,” he stated. “We don't have a choice; some things we will have to bond.”
In terms of timing for the construction schedule, Favali said his company could prepare a priority list with cost assumptions prior to town meeting day in March. If the taxpayers support the bond proposal, there would be sufficient time for the proposal to go out to bid with construction starting the day after school closes. If the process is delayed, it would not be possible to complete renovations before school starts next fall, Favali stated.
The board will consider hiring DuBois & King to perform the assessments and provide the specifications and sketch drawings, which will be used for bids on the project. Board members agreed that the bidding process should be transparent and open for all local businesses to have the opportunity to bid on various components of the project.