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Chiller unit needed to keep elementary cool

School Board seeks ways to buy $125K chiller for W.W. Robinson Elementary

By Josette Keelor

WOODSTOCK -- School Board member Richard "Rick" Koontz told the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that air conditioning could go out at W.W. Robinson Elementary School if a chiller fails.

The current chiller, which provides air conditioning to the county's most populated elementary school, is nine years old and is working at half capacity, according to Koontz. A report he submitted to supervisors says the chiller serves the original portion of the building, which includes the cafeteria, library and surrounding classrooms.

Should the chiller fail entirely, the report states, "the school will be without air conditioning for an indefinite period of time."

Koontz addressed the board in an attempt to educate members on the situation and announce the School Board's desire to purchase a new unit. He said a new unit would be approximately $125,000 and that the School Board plans to discuss the matter further at its 7 p.m. meeting Thursday.

Board of Supervisors members voiced concerns about the cost of a new unit in relation to current money in the School Board's fund, which Superintendent Jeremy Raley later confirmed contains $20,572.

Admittedly a great expense for the county, Koontz said the chiller is "something that we could not have planned for or looked forward to doing."

"I guess our situation is, where do we come up with $125,000?" he asked the supervisors.

Responding to Koontz's presentation, Supervisor Cindy Bailey addressed school projects she said might have been postponed in favor of starting a fund for unexpected expenses.

"You all made decisions of where money was going to go," she said.

When asked about the possibility of purchasing a refurbished unit, Koontz said the cost difference would be only $10,000 or $15,000.

The report lists four options for going forward: purchasing a compressor as a backup in the event of failure for about $18,000 plus an installation fee of $24,000 to $25,000; fix the unit for about $80,000 with a one-year warranty on new parts; purchase a refurbished chiller or purchase a new one.

Koontz said a $40,000 insurance reimbursement for equipment the School Board replaced after it broke last year could contribute to the new chiller unit, but he said he hopes the supervisors will agree the $40,000 could better be used for something else.

The $450,000 budgeted to schools for the coming academic year has contributed mainly to rooftop air conditioning units for North Fork Middle School, Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, Sandy Hook Elementary School and Ashby Lee Elementary, Raley said in a phone interview later on Tuesday. Budget money has also contributed to security upgrades for elementary and high schools. The security projects began in July, and he said 90 percent of cable installation is complete.

Koontz's report included a $4,000 tax credit granted for the purchase of a used machine, but Koontz said he would have to find out if the credit also applies to a new unit.

"I guess I'm here just to talk to you all," Koontz said.

"We have 10 huge facilities that we have to keep up with and maintain. ... It goes on and on the list of things we have to keep up with and maintain and from time to time replace. And some things you can prepare for and some things you can't."

"Well, the air conditioning goes out at a school. Is that the end of the world? No, but ... these kids are in elementary school [and] have never gone through that. They were born and they live in a world where they have those, I'll call them niceties.

"We're spoiled, but that's the world they live in, that's the world they're used to, so it's something that we have to address."

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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