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Ohio County Board of Education Approves Preventative Maintenance Contract With Siemens

|Photo by Joselyn King| Ohio County Board of Education members Erik Schramm, left, and David Croft listen to discussion about a maintenance contract between the school district and Siemens, which oversees heating, ventilation, and air conditioning for Ohio County Schools.

WHEELING – Ohio County Schools will spend nearly $600,000 next year for a preventative maintenance contract that guarantees heating and air conditioning systems in the school district’s buildings.

Board of education members voted 4-0 to approve the contract with the Siemens company, but not without some discussion. Board president Andy Garber and members David Croft, Erik Schramm and Pete Chacalos all voted in favor, with Chacalos participating by phone. Member Molly Aderholt was not present.

Croft had expressed concern at the board’s last meeting on May 28 that the cost was too high, considering the school district had just had many of its HVAC systems replaced during recent bond project construction. The three-year contract proposed was set to increase 5.5% in cost over each of the next three years.

Siemens sales executive Joe Spinello returned to address the board Monday with another three year contract that reduced the starting price from $605,000 to $599,000.

Croft – also an accountant and attorney – voted to approve it after noting West Virginia law does not permit the school board to enter into the three-year contract, and that the cost instead will have to be re-examined and approved each year.

Croft noted the school district’s most recent contract with Siemens had it paying $599,000 for the past year, and he would be more comfortable with a single-year contract.

“I think going forward, it would be more meaningful for us as a board to evaluate… (and consider) have we done enough to protect our public dollars to know that this is our best deal,” he said. “And I can’t say that we have, so that is why I would prefer a one-year contract at $599,000 or $600,000.”

David Crumm, director of operations for Ohio County Schools, said he is presently compiling a list of what HVAC equipment is new and what isn’t in Ohio County Schools so the board can have a better idea of what future maintenance costs will be.

He explained past contracts had been as high as $650,000 annually.

Spinello acknowledged the contract will have to be re-assessed each year under West Virginia law. He added the purpose of extending a three-year contract to Ohio County Schools is so that they have an idea of what their long term cost for HVAC maintenance will be, and they have the ability to cancel.

“It just sets the bar,” Spinello continued.

Croft asked if new equipment is purchased in the future, would that bring down the school district’s price for preventative maintenance. Spinello responded that any new items would be figured into future contracts.

Board member Erik Schramm noted that Siemens does its own computer programming of its equipment, and switching out contractors would involve someone else having to reprogram the school district’s HVAC systems.

“Ultimately, you would be hard-pressed to find a mechanical company and an automation company as a single point of contact,” Spinello said.

Ohio County Schools also has contracted with the CMTA engineering firm, which designed for the school district an energy-savings plan guaranteed to save them at least $7 million over a 15-year period. That money was figured into the budget for recent bond construction projects.

Another maintenance company would have to work through CMTA and its requirements, Spinello explained.

“Our number one responsibility as a school district is to keep our schools open,” Garber said. “Siemens has done a fantastic job in helping us to keep our schools open.”

He added that even when there were problems with the HVAC systems over the Christmas holiday, Siemens workers came to Wheeling and stayed until the problem was solved.

“They’ve been a good partner for us,” he continued.

In other matters, the board unanimously approved Laura Grube to be an instrumental/strings/general music teacher at Wheeling Park High School. She will succeed long-time WPHS strings teacher Ben Podolski.

Grube is a former student of Podolski’s, and he was present at Monday’s meeting to wish her well.

The board also accepted the retirement of Nancy Holden, a long-time reading teacher and interventionist with Ohio County Schools.

The board is next scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. on June 24 at the board office, 2203 National Road, Elm Grove.

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