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McCook High School to finally get air conditioning

Thursday, April 14, 2011

McCOOK, Nebraska -- McCook, Nebraska, High School students will have a new heating system this winter, and air conditioning -- yes, AC -- next spring.

At their monthly meeting Monday evening, board of education members accepted a proposal from Siemens Industry Inc. to replace the 55-year-old facility's original heating equipment and install air conditioning throughout the building. Other than administrative offices, computer classrooms and a couple newer areas of the building, classrooms at the school have never been air conditioned.

Greg Wolford of W Design, McCook, recommended accepting the Siemens proposal of a system expected to last 40 years.

Wolford said the school received two bids for the high school's new HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, and with deductions, alternates and variations, the apples-to-apples comparison price for upgrades (without HVAC upgrades to the music addition built in 1981 or for cooling the gym) was $1,360,800 from Trane Building Services and $1,254,911 from Siemens.

Wolford pointed out the pros and cons of each system.

Trane

Advantages: Independent room control, energy efficiency and simplicity. It removes all the old boilers.

Disadvantages: Significantly higher project costs. Increased maintenance of roof units. Difficulty of installation, requiring cutting multiple holes in the roof, ceilings and walls, and requiring the removal of some asbestos (by a third party). Does not meet all the schools' objectives with the lowest cost option.

Siemens

Advantages: Provides the lowest cost and still meets all the desires of the school for a new HVAC system. System is virtually identical to the new system at the junior high, so maintenance personnel is familiar with its operation. The majority of the work is done in the pipe tunnels and is the least disruptive to the building as far as physical changes. Improved energy efficiency.

Disadvantages: Larger maintenance costs, although, Wolford said, the system in theory should have a lower frequency of maintenance issues. More noise in the classrooms because the fan coils are inside the room and not in rooftop units.

Wolford recommended the Siemens system without upgrades in the music addition HVAC and without dedicated cooling in the gym.

The price can be brought down to $1,216,849 by accepting the alternate of not installing two units in offices near the wrestling room or a redundant system in the principal's office. Wolford recommended retaining cooling in the locker rooms (at a cost of $6,542), because the cooling system can help remove humidity in the damp rooms.

Ultimately, the Siemens system provides the capability of cooling the gym. Wolford explained that although Siemens reduces the size of the chiller, the gym's air handling unit and plumbing would still be capable of providing cooling to the gym. What this means, he said, is that for a special event in the gym (such as graduation), school staff could redirect cooling from the classroom wings and cool the gym.

The board's vote was unanimous to enter into a contract agreement with Siemens.

Heat will be available by October 1, Wolford said, and air conditioning by next spring. Work in the classrooms will be completed by the start of school in the fall.

Business manager Rick Haney said the cost of the new HVAC system will be paid over two budget cycles. There is now nearly $1 million in the depreciation fund, he said. The board has been setting aside "bunches of money," Haney said with a smile, for about five years to pay for this improvement project.

Haney foresees some savings possibilities with the new system. "We won't have one FTE (full-time equivalency) employee babysitting" the existing system, he said, nor the cost of constant repairs to the building's original heating system. "This is a tremendous opportunity to save some money," Haney said.

Board president Tom Bredvick said that with Haney's "vision to set aside money ... a fiscal system of planned savings ... for five years, we're in a position to do this project."

Board vice president Larry Shields said that the $50,000 in repairs this year "could easily have doubled next year" and possibly disrupted classroom time.


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