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County tentatively OKs emergency HVAC replacement at middle schools

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners moved on Wednesday to authorize an emergency expenditure of $4 million to replace failing heating and air conditioning lines at Rugby and Flat Rock middle schools so the school system can arrange for the work over the summer.

 Schools Superintendent Bo Caldwell said the School Board had considered phasing the work in over the next three to four years but after looking at failing pipes made the project "the No. 1 need" among repair jobs.

"I'm not guaranteeing those galvanized pipes can make it," he said. "Right now those pipes are basically giving way."

If the Board of Commissioners OKs the project now, the school system would be "ready to roll as of June and do some work while the children are not there," Caldwell said.

The galvanized pipes carry cooled and heated water in supply and return lines throughout the schools. The pipes are failing and the rest of the system is outdated, too.

"The boilers and air handlers are as old as the schools — 40 years," said Dave Berry, the county's construction manager. The chillers have been replaced more recently, in 1995, but are also at the end of their useful life. Under the proposed fix, the county would add rooftop units and install air handlers and thermostats in each room at a cost of $2 million at each school.

"Is it a true emergency? I can't answer that," Berry said. "Is there a potential for one? Yes, there is. I don't know if a 40-year-old boiler is going to make it one more day or it's going to make it a few more years."

The board unanimously adopted Commissioner Bill Lapsley's motion to authorize Berry and school officials to develop a plan quickly to present to the commissioners in time to get the work done this summer.