Richmond County School Board weighs power issues at elementary, high schools

With the “what ifs” of Hurricane Sandy still resonating with residents in the Northern Neck, school board officials added generators to the Richmond County school construction plan as an alternate option.

On Dec. 13, Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith proposed that the board include the item, currently in the Capital Improvements Project (CIP), into the construction plan.

According to Smith, placing one generator at each school would cost $114,000.

“If it’s something that works, then it would be the board’s choice upon the bidding to accept this as one of the components of the project,” Smith said.

District 4 Supervisor Brenda Pemberton questioned if the board would be required to include the generators

within the allocated funds for construction of the additions to Richmond County’s elementary and high schools.

Smith replied that the proposal of the bidding item was still a “thought” as opposed to a direct request for the new generators.

“It might be beneficial to the county, to the community, if it was part of the project,” Smith said of the proposal. “If it fits well in the bid, if we can accomplish it, then I recommend we consider it.”

Rancorn Wildman’s architect Jack Clark also disclosed that the actual cost of new power generation systems would depend on the components that the school board wanted the systems to incorporate.

“The big thing with generators is what goes on them,” Clark said. “You have to find out which systems you want on the generator, things like food service or protecting frozen foods.”

Smith also advised the board that they did not have to include the bidding item in the construction plan if “outside the scope of the bid” of the school projects.”

The item for consideration of the generators would then be relegated to the CIP.

Chairman John Brown asked Smith why the schools needed two additional generators, provided the middle school will be discontinued and Rappahannock High School currently owns a backup power unit.

Smith answered that the generator unit at the high school experienced problems during Hurricane Irene.

“We had done some work on it, but it did fail,” Smith said. “It’s an older system, and we would like to also place a generator at the elementary school.”

Smith also explained that both schools are designated as shelters for residents of the town and county.

“We actually need generator units when the power fails at both localities [because of their designation],” Smith said.

Richmond County Public Schools’ Director of Technology Chris Trader expressed his excitement over the possibility of a generator at the elementary site due to computer networking equipment that would enable technology communication with surrounding communities in the event of massive storms or power outages.

Pemberton recalled Trader backing up all external information on his laptop “for every single thing” during a Friday evening football game last year when Hurricane Irene was on the horizon.

“We didn’t know whether or not [the storm] was going to hit us or what was going to happen,” Pemberton said, noting that Trader feared losing access to vital information during the storm.

“A generator would keep that kind of thing from happening,” Pemberton added.

Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 9:16 am