Twinsburg school board approves contract for utilities work after debate
TWINSBURG -- The Twinsburg district's school buildings will be getting new HVAC and lighting systems soon, although the approval did not come without debate.
The Twinsburg Board of Education approved 4-1 a nearly $2.3 million contract with Gardiner Service Co. in Solon to update the lighting and HVAC systems in all five school buildings. Board member Adrienne Gordon cast the dissenting vote, saying she wished for more time to study the contract. She made a motion to postpone voting on the contract for two weeks, but the motion was rejected 3-2, with board member Angela DeFabio also voting to postpone the vote.
Chad Welker, the district's business manager, said that the work will not only save the district money and improve energy efficiency, but will improve safety as well. Some of the HVAC systems "are in imminent danger of failing and are showing significant signs of failing."
"They are on their last legs," Welker said.
The lighting systems also are aging, "and not providing an adequate amount of light in certain outdoor areas."
Welker said the district started last August asking for estimates. Gardiner, he said, came back with the best estimate, of the three companies that sent proposals.
"Gardiner has a good reputation in the industry," Welker said. "We've had good service with them."
In 2016 and 2019, the district had a facilities assessment, which identified recommendations for building improvements, Welker said.
Contingent on financing, Welker said the work is expected to start sometime this summer.
In a written statement prepared after the meeting, board president Tina Davis said that in February 2020, the district conducted a phone survey of residents "to gain an understanding of our community members' support of the Conceptual Legacy Project," proposed ideas regarding the district's school buildings and facilities. Ideas have included replacing buildings, particularly Dodge Intermediate School.
"Some may question why we are spending money on a building that we may end up replacing," Davis stated. "The simple answer is this: we have immediate needs that cannot be neglected and must be addressed. Most homeowners would not ignore maintenance and upkeep in their homes because of the possibility of a move, and we cannot neglect the needs of our buildings if we expect them to continue to function. These high-priority needs must be our focus to keep our buildings safe, warm, and dry."
One appeal with the Gardiner contract is a guaranteed savings with less than 10% labor and maintenance costs, Davis stated. She added that part of the contract will be financed "through the guaranteed $194,576 reduction in energy expenditures per year."
"In other words, we would be spending less money in energy costs for electricity and gas, and using that money toward completely financing the energy conservation project," Davis stated.
The contract with Gardiner Service Co., Davis stated, will include converting the district's indoor and outdoor lighting to LED, updating the district's HVAC control system to a non-proprietary system, and will address "some major concerns primarily related to boilers, chillers and cooling towers at the buildings."
"The advantage of a non-proprietary system is that moving forward, we will be able to have numerous HVAC companies compete against one another for the installation of controls on our system, since all of them can successfully integrate their products onto our controls platform," Davis stated. "The Niagara automated control system would replace some significantly aging systems at both R.B. Chamberlin and Dodge, which are dial-up systems, as well as provide a much more robust control system for the other three buildings."
Gordon said that the board was not given a copy of the 63-page contract until March 12, and said she felt more time should have been allowed for review of the contract. She also questioned whether the savings outlined in the contract could be guaranteed.
"I am really hung up on the language," she said. "They are planning on a 30% saving. Is that realistic? Are we confident they can do this?"
Welker replied that the systems in the current buildings "are not very energy efficient" and that it was possible.
In a Facebook post on her board member page, Gordon stated that her questions "were out of significant concern on the contract language - an area I bring significant expertise."
"While I totally believe there are potential maintenance issues in the schools that must be addressed immediately, the $2.2 million contract language and structure itself has many issues that cause a lot of financial and quality risks for the district," Gordon said. She added that her background includes previous project management in HVAC for Parker Hannifin.
During the meeting, board member Rob Felber said that "there are a lot of professionals involved in the process," and that the district's legal team vetted the contract.
"Questions are fine but this line of questioning is disparaging to our employees and legal team. These are competent vendors." He added that no one on the board was "qualified to evaluate the details," and that Gordon "shouldn't micromanage."
Board vice president Mark Curtis said that Gardiner had a vested interest in making good on the contract.
"What is the incentive for a contractor to do less than what they have guaranteed?" Curtis asked.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org