National Trail to update HVAC

By Kelsey Kimbler -

NEW PARIS — National Trail Local Schools is acting proactively to get another 50 years out of their school building, part of which dates back to 1968.

After years of planning and saving, they are moving forward with Phase II of the HVAC replacement project. Phase I revamped the electrical distribution systems of the 1968 building, which was actually the original distribution system.

“The transformers, panels, switch gears, and we also added emergency power to the high school, which it did not have,” Director of Facilities Brian Smith said.

Superintendent Jeff Parker added, “We had to do that in order to make it compatible with modern HVAC systems.”

Phase I cost the school district $795,000, paid for with reserve funds. At the end of each fiscal year, the district moves money into their capital improvement fund, in order to save for any repairs which might be needed.

Parker added, the funds are for anything major, but the district has been planning for this project, because the HVAC system has lived long past its life expectancy.

“I think a lot of people would be surprised that we still have the 1968 operating system and that is what we are running on,” Parker said. “The life expectancy was 37 years, if I remember right. We’ve started to have to nickle and dime a little bit, with some of the separate systems. We asked them, what if we just wait until the system doesn’t work. What if the HVAC system just stopped functioning?

“They told us that we would have, at least, a six to eight week period before we could do anything. If that happened in December, we’re talking about a minimum of two months of no heat. Think about everything that has to happen to get the new system into place. The reality would be closer to five or six months without an HVAC system. So, combined with the fact that it has outlived its life expectancy, we’re starting to nickle and dime, and given what could happen if we waited, we started saving money.”

Together, Smith, Parker, and the district as a whole decided to be proactive instead of reactive.

“Don’t wait until it goes out. Same as preventive healthcare,” Smith said.

Parker added, several years ago the community spoke and shared their desire to keep the current school building.

“With that, there is a responsibility to keep it going to the most efficient that we can. When you’re talking a 50 year old building, you’re going to have to put some work into it. Our goal is, and we’ve said this, we need to get another 50 years. With that, we have to wisely take care of it,” Parker said.

“The bids are going to be opened on March 23 and we’ll see where they come in. We hope they come in where we can do it now. If they come in higher then expected, we’re going to have to talk about if we dip into the general fund, or do we wait and save more. We think we’re going to be okay with the basics.”

Smith added, “We’re looking at also putting our Waste Water Treatment Plant on the emergency power. Some basic electric, also, in that. When we fix the distribution system, we still have branch circuits and things we’re hoping to address in that. Those are alternatives we would like to include in the same package. They have to live within the budget that we have.”

During the district’s last board meeting, held on Tuesday, Feb. 27, the architects and engineers attended to explain the system and do a walk through, answering any questions so the board had a full understanding of the project.

“The board back in December approved the process for us to go out to bid,” Parker said. “There wasn’t any formal action at February’s meeting, but if the bids come in where we hope they do, then at the March board meeting the formal meeting will be for the board to accept the bid.”

They are anticipating this part of the project to cost $2.25 million. This project will be bringing the building up to modern HVAC standards.

Smith explained, “They’re replacing the air handler units in the high school. When the school was built in 1968, it was build as a total electric. We got hot water pipes brought over, so we have coils in some of them, but we can’t control temperatures in individual classrooms. After this, the classrooms can control the temperatures a little bit more.”

“People don’t wait for their car to break down on the side of the road before they get a new one. It is about maintenance,” Parker said.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter@KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter@KKimbler_RH