1st week of School Smooth Sailing; NOT!

HVAC Issues at Loudon Elem. & Traffic Snarls

August 17, 2008

By: Pat Hunter

Ameresco Update

At the August 14, 2008 Loudon County Board of Education School Board meeting, representatives from Ameresco Energy Services gave an update about energy savings regarding the HVAC systems, lighting and water equipment, which were installed at Loudon High and Fort Loudon Middle School. According to Stuart Shunk, senior account executive, the first year performance is "that the savings are there" with the modernization of the two facilities. The summary concluded that schools were brought to existing standards and codes, air quality and light levels were improved with an offset of savings. The project was financed with zero percent interest money; $4 Million dollars came from QZAB funds and another $500,000 from the Tennessee Energy loan. Loudon County was recognized as the only government entity statewide to fund this amount.  According to the Loudon County Audit ending June 30,2007, the original amount of issue was $4,629,481, financed for up to 15-years.

HVAC (heat & cooling) Update at area Schools

Inquiring minds want to know, why didn't the School Board vote to install HVAC systems at all schools under the zero interest energy program? It seems like the School Board's piece meal approach will likely be very costly to taxpayers in the long run. At the request of the School Board, on March 3, 2008 Commissioners voted to borrow $3 Million to replace HVAC systems for area schools and life safety issues. An estimated $2 million would be used for the HVAC units. HVAC units were just finished at North Middle School, Greenback School and Philadelphia School but other schools are on the waiting list to replace the old HVAC units.

Ms. Wendy Baustian, PTO President of Loudon Elementary School has been speaking out about the HVAC problems at her school. This past Thursday was the BOE meeting and the Open House at Loudon Elementary School. As adults and children toured the school it was obvious that several classrooms had no air conditioning.

Poor air quality and a hot room is not an ideal environment for children trying to learn or for teachers trying to teach. The dog days of summer are here. Add the numerous Code Orange Action Days where the sensitive population including children, seniors and adults with respiratory problems are supposed to remain indoors in a cool place! If you have asthma or some other type of respiratory problem, attending school in one of those hot rooms or even a short visit may be harmful to one's health, which I can personally attest to! Why wasn't Loudon Elementary School given high priority with the installation of the new round of HVAC systems?

Parents and grandparents are also complaining about the long traffic lines to drop off children at schools. This is a far cry from smooth sailing as school administrators would like for the public and press to believe.

The article below shares some issues and concerns about the HVAC (heating and air conditioning) systems.      


Views mixed on Loudon Co. schools' upgrades

Some say heating, air systems well behind schedule

By Hugh G. Willett
Saturday, August 16, 2008

By some accounts, the new heating and cooling systems installed in Loudon County schools during the past year are a big success, but others say the upgrades are well behind schedule.

Statistics show the new HVAC systems are saving enough money to help pay for themselves, but some Loudon Elementary School parents say their children are sitting out the rest of the summer in classrooms without air conditioning.

The Loudon board of education heard a report Thursday night from contractor Ameresco, the company that was given the job of upgrading the school HVAC systems under the performance contracting program.

Performance contracting refers to a program where the schools can upgrade outdated and inefficient HVAC systems with new energy-saving equipment with no up-front costs. The money saved on utilities in the coming years is used to pay for the new equipment.

During the first year of the program, Loudon County has saved about $200,000 on utilities, according to Stuart Shunk, an Ameresco sales executive. The savings at Loudon High School, for example, include 11 percent on electricity and 46 percent on water, Shunk said.

"We were able to save 1.5 million gallons of water throughout the system," Shunk said.

Parents at the elementary school, where about 150 first- and second-grade children were without air conditioning during the first week of school, were less impressed with the progress of the HVAC upgrades, said Wendy Baustian, president of the Loudon Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization.

"Last year, it was the same thing," Baustian said. "Last year, it was 100 degrees; this year, we are lucky it's only about 80 degrees."

According to maintenance coordinator Dave Hemelright, the HVAC system at the elementary school is one of the few in the school system that have not yet been upgraded. The system is 25 years old, and spare parts are hard to find, he said.

The recent problems with the HVAC system at the elementary school were discovered July 31, and maintenance responded Aug. 4, Hemelright said.

Director of Schools Wayne Honeycutt said in a News Sentinel interview in early July that new HVAC installations at all the schools were almost completed.

Baustian said she was upset to learn that, in fact, the new HVAC units for Loudon Elementary, Steekee Elementary and Eaton Elementary haven't even been ordered yet.

According to Hemelright, the design engineer will have plans for the new HVAC units reviewed by the end of August, bids will be opened by the end of September, and the contracts will be awarded by Oct. 2. Completion time will not be too lengthy, he added.

Parents are not happy about the delays, and some feel they are being given the runaround, Baustian said.