Air-conditioning setup issue at Miller-Driscoll School

A warmer-than-normal fall has led to the discovery that the air-conditioning for the renovated old classrooms at Miller-Driscoll School is taking longer to setup than anticipated.

“An issue came up and we’re trying to find the answer to it. On hot humid days, we’re not able to achieve the design conditions in the school. It’s warm and humidity is high,” said Chris Burney, director of town and school facilities, who addressed the Board of Selectmen on the problem during its meeting Oct. 10.

The system was installed in mid-summer. No students or parents complained of the heat and humidity in the affected classrooms, but some teachers did, Burney said.

As a result, the building committee is holding off on the final payments for the project, considering it incomplete until the issue is resolved.

Burney reported to the BOS that on hot, humid days, the new AC system at Miller Driscoll cannot always provide the desired temperature and humidity levels.  He went on to explain that at the end of the installation, the normal process is for an independent company to set up all of the systems so that they provide the conditions specified.

He admitted that at the moment the project team does not know why the conditions can’t be met but stated that all of the project team, including the designers, contractor and equipment manufacturer are actively involved in determining a solution.

Because of this problem, the planned construction close out date of Christmas may not be met.

First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice was glad the warmer-than-normal weather exposed the problem.

“Otherwise we would not have found out until next June,” Vanderslice said.

The problem in fixing it is that the warm, humid weather is gone and there is no test model now for repairs. Adjustments have to be made by theory and speculation, Burney said.

Around 770 students attend the newly renovated Miller-Driscoll School on Wolfpit Road this year, equipped with new furniture, ceilings, flooring, HVAC systems, windows, emergency sprinklers, playgrounds and more.

The renovation project included improvements to the school’s floor plan, security, energy efficiency and site circulation.

The project was slated at approximately $50.2 million, but is projected to come in more than $7 million under budget, with a forecasted net cost to taxpayers of $36 million after state reimbursement — $14.2 million less than originally approved, according First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice’s August update.

Miller-Driscoll main entrance. — photo
Miller-Driscoll main entrance. — photo

5 thoughts on “Air-conditioning setup issue at Miller-Driscoll School

  1. Why do they report the net cost “after state reimbursement” as if state money isn’t paid by taxpayers? nBy the way I don’t think the renovated school looks very nice from the outside. Still looks like a 50 year old building. They could have done a better job for all that money if they’re trying to make a good impression for potential newcomers.

      • The Miller-Driscoll Building Committee meeting was cancelled because members will be attending the MILLER-DRISCOLL SCHOOL OPEN HOUSE FOR THE COMMUNITY tonight, 5:00-7:00PM, hosted by the BOE (as advertised in the Bulletin, other local publications, Facebook, flyers posted around town, etc). The town Director of Facilities, construction manager and architect will also all be on hand to take questions.nnWe hope you, your neighbors and friends will all come by to see the school and take a tour. nnIf tonight doesn’t fit your schedule a second Open House for the Community will be held Saturday, Nov. 18, 9:00-11:00am.nnThe doors are being opened for you and the entire Wilton community. Please take advantage of these opportunities to see and learn firsthand about the improvements and changes made to Wilton Public Schools’ Pre-K-Grade 2 school.nnIn the meantime you see photos and read about the renovation at

  2. Mr. Burney, HVAC vendor probably sold in an improperly higher tonnage unit (also costs more) which will cause the moisture evaporator to “freeze up” which prohibits all subsequent remaining warm, moist air from being dehumidified. Downsize the tonnage and it’ll remove moisture which itself causes the feeling of cooling. nnNot a good situation since we paid $40+million to replace a building shell that was wet and wrought mold and now the HVAC isn’t keeping the interior air dry.nnGreat this happened early on, but these systems are in their groove when it’s high humidity outside so there’s no blame assignable to unusually high temps or humidity.

    • If so – shouldn’t the architects or project manager done calculations to determine the required tonnage for each HVAC unit, and put that in the specs when the job was put out to tender fro bids? There may be a number of parties to blame for this.

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