On the hot seat: Leroy Ave. renovators seek to cool criticism of HVAC woes
Although questions linger about unresolved renovation problems at school district offices at 35 Leroy Ave., officials say that the issues are being addressed.
At its meeting several weeks ago, the Board of Education expressed concern over conditions -- particularly the HVAC system -- at the town-owned building, saying they would not accept responsibility for it until the problems were fixed. The former home of the Darien Library, despite renovations, the building has suffered a variety of ailments in addition to the heating system, including leaks and unexplained odors.
"All of the electrical items, with the exception of one exterior light ... have been taken care of," Mike Lynch, director of facilities for the schools, told the board Tuesday night. "There's some touch-up painting needed, (but) all of the cosmetic things, cleaning up in the basement ... have all been taken care of."
"We are down to the HVAC system," Lynch said. "We think we finally have it fixed," but the weather needs to get colder before the system can be fully tested to gauge whether the problems have been fixed.
"It still feels cold right at this moment," board member Michael Burke said Tuesday.
"You're opinion, standing there right now, is that the HVAC system is resolved?" he asked Lynch.
"No, my opinion is not important," he replied. "The fact of the matter is that this system still has some issues. Whether it's resolved or not, it's going to have to get colder," he said, to know for certain.
David Campbell, chairman of the town's "shuffle" building committee, said a new engineering team uncovered and, officials hope, solved what they think were the earlier problems with the heating system.
"The only issue remaining is the HVAC," Campbell said, noting that the new engineer "came in with a crew and redid a lot of things to make the system work."
"One of the biggest problems we found was that within the duct work there are vents that open and close, depending on the need for heat, and the system was showing that they were opening and closing, but they weren't connected. That's why you were cold," he said, regarding school board members' complaints that their sessions at the building have been chilly.
Member Kathrine Stein asked that if there are any continuing issues with heat, that they be acting on quickly. "To make everyone go through another winter like last year is unconscionable," she said.
Member David Dineen said that it sounded like the overall HVAC system has a lot of "band aids and rubber bands."
"What's the lifespan of this system?" he asked.
"This is a brand-new system," Campbell said. "Everything here is brand new," but that the "punch list" was never completed by the first engineer on the project.
"We think it is fixed as of right now," Lynch said. "We had a problem with one of the gas regulators last week (and) there is still some duct work to be moved around (but) we're going to do it over Christmas break."
"They've done a lot of changes," Campbell said. "They feel very confident that the system is working well. We have six items open that they've recommended time that we're going to do over Christmas, because we don't want to disrupt anything."
"It's all moving vents," he said. "There's four returns that are in the wrong places, so they're sucking the air out."
"Another thing is we're going to test for any leaks, but we don't want to do that with anyone around because it's just a mess," he said.
"Obviously my responsibility is to ensure that all employees of the district working in this building do so in a properly heated or air conditioned environment," interim Superintendent of Schools Lynne Pierson said earlier this week. "In anticipation of another cold winter season, this matter continues to be a concern, but is being addressed."
First Selectman Jayme Patterson recently downplayed the criticism of problems in the building, indicating that they were exaggerations and blamed it on "misinformation" in local media.
Contacted about Patterson's comments, Board of Education Chairwoman Elizabeth Hagerty-Ross, who did not attend Tuesday night's meeting, did not respond.