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HVAC project tabled

WINTON – Hertford County’s Board of Commissioners have pledged their support to ensure that Riverview Elementary School students stay warm in their classrooms during the cold months, and cool when hot weather arrives.

What’s at stake to follow through with this guarantee is how to finance a major HVAC project at the Murfreesboro-based school.

On Monday night, the Commissioners tabled the issue and asked County Manager Loria Williams to arrange a meeting with Hertford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Perry in an effort to gain more insight on the financial end of the $692,250 project.

Danny Williams, representing Hertford County Public Schools at the Commissioners meeting, cited a need for replacing the HVAC system at Riverview.

“We’re constantly having issues with the entire system, to include having the boilers to go completely off,” Williams told the board. “It’s not functioning as it should due to its age. We constantly either have to go in and re-fire the boiler or replace something in that system, whether it is a heating or cooling issue.”

Before Williams could further address the HVAC system, he was asked about the roof replacement at the school, a project funded by the Commissioners during the current budget cycle.

Commissioner Curtis Freeman wanted confirmation that this request for funding from the county would be part of the next fiscal year (2015-16) budget.

“Yes, that is correct; the reason we’re bringing it before you now is that, if approved, we can hopefully have everything out for bids by the end of February (2015),” Williams stated. “Then we can get the bidding process completed and hopefully by next summer have everything ready to be replaced.”

Commissioner Ronald Gatling reminded Williams that the next budget year funding cycle begins July 1, 2015.

“We’re still in our current budget year, which ends June 30 of next year,” Gatling noted.

“I’m not 100 percent sure if Dr. Perry is looking at the next budget year; I do know it’s a timing issue when you put projects out for bids as it sometimes takes months to get them returned,” Williams said. “We were instructed that when we have needs to present them to you (Commissioners). That’s what we’re doing tonight. The roofing project is almost done, and our next project is replacing the HVAC.”

Funding for the roof project is coming from the current year budget.

Commission Chairman Bill Mitchell inquired of Williams if he was in the position to answer any budgetary questions.

“I do have a question about the capital improvement budget that the school system has,” Mitchell stated. “I would like to know what the current balance is in your capital outlay budget.

Williams replied by saying he does not work in the school system’s finance office, but promised to find an answer to Mitchell’s inquiry.

Commissioner Howard Hunter III asked Loria Williams if this type of project could possibly qualify for State Lottery funds, a portion of which are earmarked for school-related capital improvements.

“It probably could,” she said. “I’ll have to look and see what the balance is on the amount we receive from the lottery.”

“I do know that because of the school system’s high capital outlay budget, the lottery commission would have said no to the request to use lottery funds for the current roofing project at Riverview,” Hunter said.

Freeman inquired of Loria Williams had she met with Dr. Perry about the funding of the HVAC project.

“Dr. Perry and I did not have an opportunity to talk about that; he just provided the information included in your board packet for tonight’s meeting,” she answered.

“We need to look at this project, but my concerns are with the budget cycle, especially with the current project (roof replacement) that we are funding in the current cycle,” Gatling stressed. “I understand the serious need for this HVAC system. We don’t want our kids sitting in cold classrooms or in hot classrooms.”

Agreeing with Mitchell’s earlier inquiry about the current balance in the school system’s capital outlay budget, Gatling added, “We may can pay for some of this and you (school system) may have some available. We know we’re going to have to build a new Ahoskie Elementary School and the money we’re now using to do all these things is the same money to assist in that project.”

“All this talk right now is a mute point; what needs to happen right now is for you, Ms. Williams, to sit down with Dr. Perry and discuss what’s got to happen and from what funding source (for the Riverview HVAC),” Freeman noted. “We need to learn what the school system has in their capital outlay and when he (Dr. Perry) wants to get this project off and running.”

Freeman added that it was possible to approve the project now and apply the funding after July 1, 2015.

“It’s a project that’s got to be done, and to the school system, it’s going to get done,” Freeman stressed. “I would like to see us table this issue until Ms. Williams and Dr. Perry can sit at the table and discuss specifics. If that meeting can be arranged quickly, we might can bring this back up at our next regular meeting (Dec. 1). Two weeks is not a deal breaker on this project.”

The project includes architectural design, contingency and installation of the heating and air conditioning system (pumps, boiler, cooling tower, and controls). It also includes an upgrade to the lighting system in the 1990 building on the Riverview campus.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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