Board offers warm support for new chiller

By Alex Bridges

Shenandoah County may buy a new chiller for an elementary school out of savings.

The Board of Supervisors voiced support Thursday for a request by the School Board to help replace the piece of equipment at W.W. Robinson Elementary School. The equipment began to fail earlier this summer. The device purchased new nine years ago currently operates at about half its capacity. A new chiller likely would cost $125,000 and the school system’s current budget does not include money needed to replace the equipment.

The School Board is asking for a supplemental appropriation from the supervisors to cover the cost of a new or refurbished chiller.

County Administrator Mary T. Price told supervisors that she and Superintendent Jeremy Raley recently discovered that, over the past few years, the school system has not been re-appropriating money received from insurance claims. Price explained that the county usually puts the money from claims back into the general government budget.

The School Board has received $42,779 from the insurance claim on a chiller began to break down at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Price said. Information provided to supervisors showed the school system has $20,572 not obligated to any project in the capital improvement program.

The county would need to take the remaining $61,649 from the unassigned fund balance, or savings, in the current fiscal period.

The school system does not yet know how much it can expect from an insurance claim on the Robinson chiller. The equipment had a one-year, manufacturer’s warranty.

Supervisor Steve Baker said he’s received some phone calls from residents who say they support the School Board’s request. Baker said he would support giving the School Board the nearly $62,000 needed to cover the cost. Supervisors had, in previous years gave money to the School Board that it did not spend in a budget cycle.

“It’s like any business,” Baker said. “When you have money, you don’t just spend it. You kind of save it for a rainy day and a rainy day has come.”

Supervisors turned down a request earlier this summer to let the School Board use more than $600,000 in unspent money from a previous budget cycle for various items. That money remains in the county’s general fund.

Supervisors did give the School Board $450,000 out of the system’s savings for capital improvements. The School Board has spent all but $20,000 of that amount this budget cycle.

Supervisors voted 5-1 to forward the request to a regular board meeting for official action.

In response to a question by Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese, Raley said the school system recently learned that its insurance policy would cover the purchase of a refurbished chiller just as it would a new one. Neese and Vice Chairman Conrad Helsley voiced support for buying a refurbished chiller. While a refurbished chiller may not last as long, Helsley pointed out that the current piece of equipment has broken after only nine years. A new chiller should last at least 20 years, Raley said.

Supervisor Cindy Bailey asked Raley about a recent sale of property the School Board owned, for which the system received $127,000. The school system had bought the property near Mount Jackson a few years ago as part of a housing project built by students at Triplett Tech. Students finished the home and the School Board sold the property. Raley said the funds generated by the sale go back to Triplett Tech to recoup the cost of buying the land and the materials used to build the house.

Bailey told Raley she has heard negative comments from the community about a new, $20,000-plus sign built for the Central campus on Susan Avenue. Bailey said this money could have been spent on other, more pressing needs. Raley explained that this was a school project made by students with the cost covered by student contributions and fundraisers.

The land transaction prompted Supervisor Marsha Shruntz to ask Raley and Price to provide to the board a list of lots owned by the School Board and the county.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com