RCCC officials leave penniless

Published 8:33 am Monday, October 14, 2013

By Caroline Stephenson


WINTON – Ask and you shall receive….or perhaps not.

A $61,000 request made here Monday by Roanoke-Chowan Community College officials to replace an aging AC unit at the Freeland Building on campus was left unfulfilled by the Hertford County Board of Commissioners.

Roanoke Chowan Community College President Dr. Michael Elam made the request to the Board. Instead, he was told to use the $100,000 already given by the county to the college for capital improvements.

According to Elam, “The chiller in question has been on its last legs for a while.”

He went on to explain that approximately $1,000 had been spent already in the last six months replacing leaking coolant and “patching it up” to keep it running. Elam stated that several bids for a new chiller have been evaluated and the original request to the Commissioners was $100,000 but they were able to get it down to $61,000 “with a lot of value engineering.”

Elam then turned the microphone over to Charles Strickland, RCCC Facilities Director, to go into more detail and answer any questions the Commissioners might have.  Strickland started with brief history of the chiller.

“It was installed when that building was built and was designed to handle two buildings,” Strickland said. “They never built the second building.  I saw two problems with that.  The chiller would cost more than it should because it didn’t have two buildings it was cooling and, second, it cost more to operate.”

He went on to say that the chiller in question has four compressors and two of those are broken and have been taken out. It has been running off the two compressors for the last five or six years.

“It’s been barely getting by cooling that building,” Strickland said. “When I was doing the budget pricing, I had some of the suppliers see if we could come up with something smaller unless we are going to build that second building in the next few years. We are kind of sitting out there and we need to make a decision about whether or not we are going to put one big enough for two buildings or match it to the load that we have on the Freeland Building.  The cost to replace it for one building is $61,759 for an 80 ton unit.”

Elam and Strickland also mentioned to the Commissioners that the current chiller was nearing Environmental Protection Agency Code violations.

“Code says you can have up to 15 percent annual leakage and not have to repair it or replace it,” Strickland noted.  “We are approaching that 15 percent. It’s to the point where we need to do something about it.”

Hertford County Manager Loria Williams responded by reviewing what was in the current budget.

“As you all recall we did allocate $200,000 to RCCC, $100,000 in current expense and $100,000 in capital outlay for them to decide which capital projects they are going to undertake this year with the dollar amounts they were allocated,” Williams stated. “So what they are asking for is an additional $61,000 on top of the $200,000 allocation given to them for this fiscal year.”

Williams continued, “Statutorily at any given time if something in that facility fails or breaks we (the county) are responsible to repair that.  So I think what is before this Board and also before RCCC is how to prioritize the money that has been currently provided and then making a decision which is more critical and how they want to utilize the money.”

Williams suggested to the Commissioners that they go through their work session scheduled for later that morning before making their decision.

“If you choose to fund it, it will have to come out of fund balance and nowhere else,” she stressed. “We don’t have enough money anywhere else to get it from operational wise. Let see what other money we are going to utilize coming out of fund balance for some projects we have on tap this later year. The issue at hand you will have to deliberate is whether you fix it right now while its running or whether someone may think it has some additional life on it and can run another year.”

Commissioner Howard Hunter III asked if RCCC had spent any of their $100,000 capital outlay money. Elam responded no and added, “I believe you all received an advance copy of our priorities list.  As you can see, if we spend the $61,000 then we will still have quite a few critical needs unaddressed.  So we are looking for how we can get the most value out of this priority listing.  And if you decide to assist us, it will give us the opportunity to address many of our top priorities in this year.  If not there will be a few we can address but not many.”

The Freeland Building is home to RCCC’s Nursing Department, Cosmetology, Computer Information Technology, Fine Arts, the Small Business Center, and others.

According to Elam, it was decided at the work session that the Board preferred RCCC use the already allocated $100,000 in capital outlay funds first, then if additional capital expenses occurred the Commissioners would address those as needed.