By JUNO OGLE Daily Press Staff For the fourth time in two years, a compressor has failed on a heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit at Jose Barrios Elementary School, but the district superintendent is hopeful the unit can be replaced by the end of the year. The frustration was evident in Superintendent William Hawkins’ voice as he described the ongoing problem for the Daily Press in a phone interview Monday. The HVAC unit was purchased new and installed by Trane Heating and Air Conditioning two years ago at a cost of about $800,000, Hawkins said. The compressor that failed Nov. 15 had already been replaced during fall break after failing over the summer, Hawkins said. It had failed previously six months after the unit was originally installed, and that replacement failed six months after that, he said. “At that point, I was pretty upset, pretty frustrated with Trane’s response and not being able to replace what we considered to be the major issue, which was the condensing unit,” Hawkins said. “We’ve finally gotten some headway in the last week. Of course, I anticipated that we would, given the nature of my most recent call to them.” Hawkins said he spoke to a regional supervisor with the company in El Paso, which sent a technician to inspect the unit this week. “It’s one unit that has two systems in it. Since it’s down, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying our best to have at least half the system running for the time being,” said Mark Castelli, a Trane account manager. The company will replace the condensing unit as soon as it secures a new one, he said. “Instead of just continually replacing compressor after compressor, Trane’s taking the stance of replacing the unit,” Castelli said. He said he was just recently assigned to the Silver School District’s account, so he could not speak to the history of the issue and why the unit was not replaced earlier. “These systems are very complicated,” he said. “So at first we’ll replace the compressor. If it’s a continual issue, then we know we need to broaden out to what is causing these compressors to fail, so our next step is to replace the unit as a whole and see what else needs to be done.” Castelli said due to supply chain issues, it’s difficult to say just when the unit will be replaced, but Hawkins said he hoped it would be done by Christmas break. “We’re trying to secure a unit right now, and we have one in our sights, but there’s a couple of things that need to happen in order to secure that unit,” Castelli said. “The supply chain is very volatile right now. My hopes are high, but I can’t say for sure.” The unit is still under warranty, and Trane will cover the cost of the unit and its installation, Castelli said. “They did give me some reassurance, which I’ll take as cautiously optimistic, that they consider this situation high priority and whatever the cost to make it right, they’re going to do it,” Hawkins said. Even though the unit itself has been under warranty, the district has had to pay associated costs, such as parts and labor with the replacement of the failed compressors, Hawkins said. He estimated the district has spent about $50,000 on the unit. And until the unit is replaced, the half of the HVAC unit that still functions will have to work a little harder to keep the school comfortable for students and staff. “If it drops below 32 degrees in the evening, then that means it’s going to have to work harder and longer to bring that temperature up,” Hawkins said. That could mean the heating unit might have to start at 3 a.m. instead of 5, he said. Classrooms in the building will have mini-heaters to help them warm up faster, Hawkins said. The superintendent said he wanted to make sure parents understood the district is aware of the problem, and is working to fix it. “It’s incredibly frustrating for us, and we want our students to be comfortable in the classroom — we want our teachers to be comfortable,” he said. “We deal with the same issues in our school system just like a resident would when they have these types of issues. You’ve got to go through a process.” Juno Ogle may be reached at [email protected]
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