Installing heating, cooling units at Chief Joseph Middle School will take 4 more months

Richland district says it has to design units, wait for parts

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMarch 17, 2013 

Teachers and students at Chief Joseph Middle School in Richland will have to deal with ice cold and blazing hot classrooms for a little longer.

The Richland School Board and district administrators have moved quickly to replace the aging heating and cooling units at the school since voters passed a $98 million bond in February.

Unfortunately, it will take another four months to design the new units and longer for parts to come in, said district officials. That means the district can't get the project done this summer and the school will have to make it through one more school year with the current system.

The $5 million Chief Joseph project was one of the least expensive items to be funded by the bond, which will build several elementary schools, a middle school and other construction. However, district officials said a bond would be the only way the district could finance the project.

Employees at the school have said temperatures in the building can vary widely, even from room to room, regardless of the time of year. Repairs to the system are costly because some new parts have to be specially made since they aren't commercially available.

The new units will be a boiler-chiller system with an estimated lifetime of 30 years.

Interim Superintendent Rich Puryear told the Herald the original plan was to have the new units installed this summer while students were out for break, but the design timeline won't fit that. And the units have to be installed when students aren't in the school.

Puryear said the district's maintenance staff will be able to keep the current units running for one more school year and the new ones will be installed immediately after classes are out in June 2014.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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