FARMINGTON — RSU 9 directors agreed Tuesday to leave $50,000 in the 2014-15 budget to deal with overheating on the second floor of the Mallett School.

The plan for this year is to take out some of the window glass in the most affected classroom and replace it with white, insulated panels. The glass will be saved.

A commercial-size air conditioner would be installed in the classroom to see if it would cut down on the 85- to 90-degree temperatures during the spring and fall. The air handlers in the new school change the air every 15 minutes and bring in air from the outside.

The money will come out of the current budget of David Leavitt, the district’s director of support services, the small amount of contingency money left in the budget, or both. 

If the changes work, the $50,000 in the 2014-15 budget could be used to do the same to seven other rooms, if the board approves. The project would also include adding heavier wiring for the air conditioners.

The other four rooms in the back of the 12 on the second floor would also be looked at to see what could be done to alleviate heat, Superintendent Tom Ward said. The district bought eight window air conditioners in 2012 for second-floor classrooms as a temporary fix.

The first floor of the school is air conditioned. The state paid for it in the 2011 new school building project because the school would be used during the summer, Ward said.

Ward and Leavitt have been working with Portland architect Stephen Blatt and architects in his firm that designed the Mallett School to come up with options to fix the overheating problem.

Leavitt presented a proposal to the board in January that would cost about $300,000 to put air conditioning in the walls of the second-floor rooms and put a 40-ton chiller unit on the roof.

The cost of the school construction project was estimated at about $18.9 million in 2009, with the state paying for the bulk of it and district taxpayers paying about $75,000.

There is also an issue of light coming in through the windows, which affects the technology in the classrooms, including electronic white boards, Ward said. Some type of blackout material will be looked at to see if it would work to correct the matter.

Most of the second-floor rooms would have air conditioning, he said.

In January, the board had requested an estimate on litigation with the architectural firm.

The district’s attorneys have said that filing a lawsuit against the architects could easily cost $50,000, and the district might not win, Ward said.

“We just don’t have enough (documentation) to prove negligence on the part of the architects,” he said.

He has reviewed minutes of the building committee meetings, he said.

“Right now, the architects are working hard with us” to find a solution, Ward said. The firm has provided all the drawings for upgrades at no cost to the district, he said.

The position of the district’s attorneys at Drummond Woodsum is that the district constructed the building on the same site of the old Mallett School and people supported it, he said. The old Mallett School was demolished after the new school was completed.

School board Vice Chairwoman Claire Andrews of Farmington said this is a significant consideration for the board.

Many community members were on the building committee. She said the overheating issue is a design flaw in the building. There were options presented and this is the one that was recommended, she said.

Andrews, a lawyer, asked Ward to get a written opinion from Drummond Woodsum.

“I don’t think having air conditioners in every window is aesthetically pleasing,” Director Keith Swett of Wilton said.

Director Iris Silverstein of Farmington said she agreed with Andrews and the need for a written legal opinion. She also wanted to know the lifespan on the three proposals to eliminate the overheating, including one that was more expensive than the $300,000.

“I feel, otherwise, we are not making a really good decision,” she said.

Director Betsey Hyde of Temple asked Leavitt for his opinion.

“I think the $300,000 is the way to go, but I think it is worth trying one room” with the insulated panels and commercial air conditioner, he said.

The air conditioners would be set in the bottom window, where the current air conditioners are, he said.

Directors plan to hold a board meeting at the school once the changes have been made in the classroom.

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