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Local News

Business hired to produce energy savings for city generating nothing but criticism

September 9th, 2011 10:14 am by Gary B. Gray

Indiana-based Energy Systems Group did not exactly pull in rave reviews Thursday morning in a Board of Education/City Commission Facilities Committee meeting at which the company was criticized for its tardiness.
“You couldn’t have paid a million to design a worse project,” said City Manager Pete Peterson. “They’ve been dragging their feet for three years, so they need to know their warranty starts as soon as we sign off on this.”
“This” is a years long effort to replace water, HVAC, windows and lighting systems at the Municipal & Safety Building, all fire stations and existing Johnson City schools before construction of the new Fairmont Elementary School or renovations and construction on the Science Hill campus.
The changes are expected to produce energy savings over time. The overall goal of the improvements is to reduce the number of kilowatt hours used, but that can be offset in the wrong direction when the cost of energy rises, as is the case in today’s economy.
“They are just now ready to make a punch list,” Peterson said. “I haven’t sat in on any of their meetings in more than a year over frustration. There’s been the appearance of a lack of responsibility on the part of all contractors involved.”
Though the upgrades are nearing an end, work still is going on.
“By signing off, the school system recognizes that all equipment has been received, installed and is up and running,” said Dave Chupa, Johnson City Schools’ instruction and facilities supervisor. “But they still need to test the equipment.”
Meanwhile, Chattanooga’s EMJ Corp., the general contractor on Science Hill’s $26 million renovation and construction project, will end up eating about $100,000 due to faulty masonry work.
Seventy-two door frames in the new academic building did not fit because the masonry walls were incorrectly set by a few inches, missing the targeted space for the door frames and doors.
“EMJ will have to front the cost to the subcontractor to do the replacements,” Chupa said.
Also, the Science Hill campus now appears to be free and clear of any concerns that arose last month when the State Fire Marshall’s Office had not signed off on several procedural issues regarding fire systems. The Johnson City Fire Department sent a handful of firefighters to the campus to observe fire drills and other tests and the systems were finally approved.
“We appear to have met all conditions of the State Fire Marshall at this time,” Chupa said. “Students have adjusted well to the opening of school. Drills have been conducted, the fire watch has ended, all buildings have been updated to current fire standards with regard to sirens and strobes, and school seems to be progressing well considering the size of this construction project.”
Chupa said from 300 to 500 students move each period from the Science Hill Campus to Liberty Bell and back for classes.
Director of Schools Richard Bales also has reported 2011 enrollment figures. The numbers reported were taken from a count on day 10 of the new school year and totaled 7,470 students — just one student below the 2010 count.
Total enrollment at the system’s eight elementary schools was 3,579, about 43 fewer students than the 3,622 the prior year. Indian Trail, counting sixth and seventh graders, rose from 1,094 to 1,131 this year. Liberty Bell’s count was 536 compared to 549 in 2010, and total enrollment at Science Hill High School was 2,224, a drop of 531 students compared to last year.
“We’ve certainly not taken on any new tuition students,” Bales said of the reductions in students at each level except for Indian Trail, which is next in line for expansion. “We will not be taking on any new tuition students until we have all new construction and reconfiguration complete next year.”

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