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Pottsgrove MS Cooling Tower Is Failing In ‘Design Flaw’

Pottsgrove MS Cooling Tower Is Failing In 'Design Flaw'

The upper level entrance to Pottsgrove Middle School

POTTSTOWN PA – Another “design flaw” in the construction of Pottsgrove Middle School, the North Hanover Street hilltop campus for students in grades 6, 7, and 8, is likely to create additional costs for taxpayers this year and next, according to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Facilities Committee and Director of Facilities and Physical Plants Michael Katzenmoyer.

Board members earlier this month (March 12, 2013) agreed to have Moore Engineering Co. of Lancaster PA, with which the district has worked before, study whether the middle school’s failing cooling tower system could be repaired or must be replaced. The study alone will cost $2,250, Katzenmoyer said.

The tower is a primary component in the school’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning infrastructure. It is “prematurely degrading due to a design flaw in the building,” Katzenmoyer acknowledged. A curtain wall that was intended to shield the roof-mounted tower from view also inhibited air flow needed to make the system operate properly, he explained.

As a result, Katzenmoyer added, the tower may need repairs that could cost up to $80,000, or may need to be replaced entirely. A replacement price has yet to be determined, but presumably would be even more expensive. The committee is relying upon Moore’s review to help it decide which is the better option.

[box type=”note” size=”large” style=”rounded”]The Pottsgrove School District Board of School Directors is scheduled to hold its second meeting of the month tonight (Tuesday, March 26, 2013) beginning at 7:30 in the district office, 1301 Kauffman Rd., Pottstown. It is free and open to the public.[/box]

News of problems with the cooling tower is only the most recent construction-related debacle at the middle school. The board last year (February 2012) authorized the district’s final payment for repairs to the school’s entrance support pillars and extensive hillside retaining wall. They totaled more than $402,000.

That cost was attributed to design flaws too, formally recognized during 2010. The school at the time was only 11 years old, but by then significant water seepage and pooling caused some of its masonry pillars to crumble, and the steel beams within them to rust. The wall buckled, cracked and weakened, and was streaked with white efflorescence.

Typically, school buildings have a life of between 20 and 25 years before such major repairs or renovations are contemplated, the board was told in 2010. If it proceeds, the cooling tower repair or replacement would mark the second substantial expense in the middle school’s life-to-date of just 14 years.

And that’s not all.

The board during the same meeting this month also authorized replacement of 12 wooden doors in the middle school with steel ones, at a cost of $11,000. After years of continuous use, the doors’ three-point hinges were failing, Katzenmoyer said. The metal replacements use a single, full-length hinge intended to stand up to much tougher wear, and also will provide increased security and fire protection, Katzenmoyer said.

Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ meeting of March 12):

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