Air-conditioning plan gets a chilly reception SOUTHWEST -- Mount Airy * Woodbine * Taylorsville * Winfield

November 12, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Mount Airy Elementary is not the only school in Carroll County with no air conditioning, but its third story is one of the hottest spots in the system, said Lester Surber, supervisor of school facilities.

At least two county commissioners are a bit cool on the idea of spending $492,000 to air-condition the school.

"I don't know how to respond to that," said Commissioner President Donald I. Dell, who was surprised to learn yesterday that the Board of Education may ask for an additional $257,000 on Monday to pay for air conditioning.

The county already has approved $300,000 for the project. But when bids came in this summer, they were all above $500,000. School officials revised their plans, and received bids for a different kind of system.

The school has 60,000 square feet, and the cost is not inordinate for the space involved, Dr. Surber said.

"Particularly the third floor becomes practically unbearable -- even the second floor," he said.

Dr. Surber said the new bid involves a lease-purchase agreement for a system called thermal ice storage, which costs less to operate than the system originally proposed. The first plan was to simply install cooling coils into existing heating units.

The school board got a glimpse of the proposal at its meeting yesterday, but won't vote on it until Monday. In addition to the initial costs, the schools would pay $5,000 a month for five years for renting to own the equipment.

The school was renovated in 1987, but state funding for the project did not include enough money for air conditioning, Dr. Surber said.

Of the county's 33 school buildings, 17 are fully air-conditioned, six are partially air-conditioned and 10 don't have it at all. The long-range plan is to provide cooling in all schools, Dr. Surber said.

In the meantime, policy calls for schools to close when heat becomes oppressive, such as above 90 degrees. Because of bus routes, all schools -- even those with air conditioning -- close on those days.

Commissioner Elmer Lippy said he would have to consider the school board's request, once it gets to him, in light of other severe budget cuts the schools will be facing.

State cuts to Carroll schools could be anywhere from $2.5 million to $3.8 million, depending on how the legislature decides to divide the burden among counties.

"I know young people get sick of hearing how it was in the old days," Mr. Lippy said. "But when I was an elementary student, I never even heard of air conditioning."

Then again, he said, "We also had outside toilets."

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