Capital Projects & Budget Committee Recommend $2.8M

Another Gas Leak Detected Monday – Life Safety hazard 

By: Pat Hunter

Loudon County Commission will soon meet to vote on recommendations from the Capital Project and Budget committees. Both committees recently recommended funding $2.8 Million for HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) units and repairs for State Fire Marshall (SFM) deficiencies. If approved by commissioners at the Feb 4 meeting, the next step is to place it out to bid and then go back to both committees. The County will also go to the bond market to finance the projects. This is expected to take about 3-months; in the meantime, students must suffer the consequences of heating problems but more importantly life safety issues, gas leaks at the Greenback School! 

The Capital Projects Committee met early Monday afternoon to discuss details and funding issues; the room was packed with on-lookers. County Maintenance and Purchasing Director, Leo Bradshaw presented cost estimates for the HVAC units and SFM repairs. Bradshaw commented how the revised list differed from the original list of HVAC units. The list was based on age of units (20-years old), condition and location of units by school.

School Director Edward Headlee also distributed recently approved information from the Loudon County Board of Education (BOE). Table 1, Table 2, Costs, Summary

Another Gas Leak Detected Monday

Ron Jones with the State Fire Marshall was introduced; he was present to address questions about the SFM Report. During the meeting, Bradshaw disclosed that another gas leak was detected on Monday (Jan. 28). On Saturday (Jan. 26) a gas leak was detected in a classroom and youth basketball was evacuated from the nearby gym as a precaution. This makes the 4th leak in a matter of 2-months! Gas leaks pose a threat to life and health and poison by carbon monoxide.    

As Commissioner Gardin looked at the Greenback list he asked, what risk do we take in not replacing the units, students be cold or school blow up with a gas leak…

Comm. Gardin questioned why Greenback School was getting fewer heating and cooling units. Bradshaw explained how the HVAC list was modified after the last BOE meeting. The new HVAC list reflected the number of units that were not completely down as far as putting out heat but were a lesser number from the original list but could still be re-used. He pointed out how units would not be wasted or abandoned once the proposed Greenback School was built. He gave several options including $1.6 Million to replace certain units or replace HVAC units in phases by replacing the worse units first. Cost estimates varied by the size of units including window units.

Commissioner Gardin quizzed Bradshaw about the number of replacement HVAC units at the Greenback School. It was said that even if commissioners approved funding for a new Greenback School, it would take 3-years before completion. The cost of HVAC units at Greenback School was originally proposed to be $210,000 but then revised to $154,000 with a difference of $60,000. Comm. Shirley Reno mentioned that a certified HVAC professional inspect the gas units and report back.

Mayor Arp added to the discussion, he thought that it would be better to go to the bond market for the entire amount rather than come back at a later time. He reminded everyone how moneys had been tapped with the purchase of trailers “learning cottages” and only $1.5 Million remained in the rural fund debt account.  

Comm. Gardin thought that Greenback School was in far worse condition when it came to heating and air problems and he could not understand why the number reflected a much smaller number. Gardin did not want to short change Greenback and he couldn’t understand why in comparison North Middle School was getting all of its units replaced. He expressed safety concerns about the gas leak situation at Greenback School and urged other committee members to take action.

Another dollar amount was earmarked for all the life safety repairs required by the State Fire Marshall’s office. Bradshaw recommended spending $1.6 Million however Commissioner Wayne Gardin said that they could not afford to take any chances referring to the gas leaks at the Greenback School. Gardin made the motion to approve the entire projected amount of $2.859,400.00, which was unanimously approved. This recommendation went to the Budget Committee, which was also unanimously approved.