Funding Woes Slow Schools’ HVAC Work

NEWARK – Worcester County Schools officials last week approved funding for rooftop heating and air conditioning units at two schools, but not before lamenting the lack of funding to replace all of the aging systems at public schools across Worcester.

The Board of Education last week approved expenditures for new rooftop HVAC units at Snow Hill and Pocomoke Middle Schools. The slightly smaller unit at Snow Hill Middle came in at a low bid of $26,615, while the Pocomoke Middle project came in at $38,000.

A local business, Wilfre Company, Inc., was the successful bidder for both projects. Nine invitations to bid were sent out by the county school system in November and four were returned successfully. While Board of Education members approved the two expenditures, they expressed disdain there wasn’t money in the budget to do all of the aging rooftop HVAC units at schools across the county.

Worcester Public Schools Supervisor of Maintenance Steve Price explained the two currently planned for and approved represent a drop in the bucket.

“We’re replacing the worst of the worst,” he said. “There are 67 rooftop units at our schools that need replacing, but we just can’t do them all with the money we have in the budget.”

Superintendent Dr. Jon Andes said the issue was symptomatic of the budget woes in many areas.

“We simply don’t have the money to do all of them, or even more of them,” he said. “There are 67 units that need replacing, and at two a year, you can see where this is going. At this pace, it will take over 30 years to do all of them, and by then, the ones replaced first will need replacing again.”

Andes voiced concern the failing units can and are having an affect on the students, teachers and staff. He also praised the maintenance staff for doing their best under the circumstances.

“There will be spots in these schools that are either too hot or too cold,” he said. “The maintenance staff does a fabulous job of Band-Aiding together and praying over these rooftop units.”

Board member Bob Rothermel pointed out the cost of doing all 67 HVAC units that need replacing, but acknowledged it was likely a pipe dream.

“It’s simple math,” he said. “We need $2 million to do all of them but we know that isn’t going to happen.”

Price said the maintenance crews would stay the course on the HVAC replacements.

“We’ll try to do the worst of the worst and do the best we can,” he said. “Like everything else, it all comes down to money.”

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