School District faces tough choices with HVAC system

                                                                                                                                                                   Photo by Shari Harris
By Shari Harris
Co-Publisher

The Licking R-VIII School Board met on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in the board meeting room of the Superintendent’s office. The board was treated to a performance by the High School’s a capella group, The Cat’s Meow, who presented two pieces from a recent competition in which they participated.
This was followed by a discussion with Clifford Brown of Brown’s Heating and Cooling. Brown presented information to the board about the HVAC system for the Sherman Hill Field House, including his recommendations for necessary repairs.
Jennifer Smith gave the school wellness report and Nurse Godi provided the Health Services report, noting influenza numbers were down compared to last year.
The board worked on next year’s school calendar, with school scheduled to start August 25, 2020 and run through May 20, 2021. The state is counting hours of attendance now instead of days; therefore the school is adding 21 minutes per day to the school day (which will lengthen high school and junior high classes by 3 minutes each). This will allow 10 weather cancellation days to be built into the calendar.
The ground source HVAC system for the Sherman Hill Field House has a short history; it was put in place in 2014 and the debt associated with this system runs through 2025. Sam A. Winn & Associates engineered the system, which included three supply wells and three dump wells. One supply well and one dump well were activated and the other wells were reserve wells in preparation for expansion.
According to Supt. Cristina Wright, since 2014 when the supply well went into use, the pump in the well has been replaced twice. The first time, it was believed to possibly have been a lightning strike that caused the pump to fail; that was in 2016. The second pump failed in 2017 and a third pump was installed in 2018. In August of 2019, grit was noted in the system and further investigation found the water level had dropped 80 feet. The system is designed to pump 70 gallons per minute but due to the grit and reduced water pressure above the pump, it was only pumping 30 gallons per minute. The pump was shut down in October or November to prevent further damage and electric heat is being used in the building. There is no current backup system to provide air conditioning to the building with the exception of cooling in the computer lab.
The two reserve supply wells use the same aquifer and have oxidation issues; they would require some repairs and modifications in order to be utilized. If this were done, they could be brought into service in conjunction with the other well to increase the pressure of water being pumped.
The loop pump is a 7.5 HP pump, and does not function adequately if the well pump isn’t pumping 70 gallons per minute.
David Seidel with Seidel Research and Development Company proposed what they feel is the ideal solution, after reviewing the blueprints and meeting with the HVAC and well contractors. It would cost about $85,000 and would include adding screens to the well pumps to prevent pickup of grit, increasing the loop piping from three-inch to four-inch pipe to reduce pressure loss and replacing the loop pump with a 10 HP pump, which will be able to meet the demands of the system with a lower output from the well pumps.
Supt. Wright and the school board face difficult decisions in regards to the system and are reviewing their options. Obviously this large of an expenditure is not in the budget, but smaller scale fixes such as using window units for the classrooms for air conditioning would be less energy efficient and also create an increase in expenses. Furthermore, this would allow the ground source system to fall into further disrepair, oxidization and waste, while the district continues to pay for it for another five years. A second opinion is also being sought from other HVAC contractors in regards to mechanical equipment.
The school board meets again on March 9. This will be the final meeting for School Board President Brad Smith (15 years of service) and Mike Hammond (14 years of service), as they are not seeking re-election. Depending on what is decided at that meeting, the new board may face difficult choices at their first meeting in April, in regards to the future of the ground source HVAC system at the Field House.

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