Official: Replacing Northside heating system costly but necessary
By Reggie Ponder
Sunday, February 18, 2018
An aging heating system at Northside Elementary School, pushed to its limits during the unusually cold weather last month, needs to be replaced, the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools maintenance chief said last week.
Frankie Floyd, director of facilities and maintenance for ECPPS, told members of the Board of Education at their Feb. 8 retreat that his staff are working on short-term fixes to the heating problems at Northside but the long-term solution is to install a new system.
A key issue, however, is cost. The N.C. Department of Education’s cost estimate for replacing the existing system with a similar one is slightly more than $2 million. As a result, ECPPS staff are studying other, less-costly options, Floyd said.
Northside’s heating system has already caused complications for school staff at least once this year.
When students returned to school on Jan. 2 after the Christmas break, seven classes at Northside had to be relocated to other areas of the school because of the heating system. ECPPS Superintendent Larry Cartner noted at the time the system was not adequate to handle newer areas of the school.
“The heating system for the building is simply not large enough to heat the additions that have been made over the years,” Cartner said a the time, adding the school’s heating system would be a budget discussion item this year.
The discussion has already begun.
Floyd told school board members that the central water loop system, with 47 water-to-air heat pumps located in mechanical rooms throughout the school, barely meets demand on good days. Mineral deposits build up inside the pipe that restrict water flow, a problem that can be treated with chemicals, he said.
“Does it have a lot to do with the water quality here?” asked board Chairwoman Sharon Warden.
It does, Floyd acknowledged, before adding that the water can be treated.
Beyond the flow issue, though, the heating system is 9-10 years past its life expectancy and “is not popular with parents or staff,” according to Floyd.
“Because the system barely meets the square footage requirement while operating at optimal performance, I do not recommend renovating the current system,” he said.
Floyd said he’s heard the allegation that the heating system was a used system at the time it was installed. However, it actually was a new system, he said. There was a discussion when Northside Elementary School was built about installing a used boiler from P.W. Moore Elementary School, but that idea was axed in favor of a new system, Floyd said.
“Thirty years ago it was some of the best technology out there,” Floyd said in response to a question from Warden about why that particular heating system was chosen.
But over time better options have become available, he added.
“There are better, less costly technologies available that operate much more efficiently and we are currently exploring those options,” Floyd said.
Floyd also reported that $103,000 had been saved this fiscal year on two heating, ventilation and air conditioning projects: Central Elementary’s HVAC replacement, budgeted at $90,000, cost $51,800 instead, while Northeastern High School’s HVAC replacement, budgeted at $90,000, cost $25,000 instead. He said those savings can be used on projects in the next budget year.