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.