Residents of Berlin, Gibbsboro and Voorhees will vote on financing for a new HVAC system at Eastern Regional High School through a Dec. 14 bond referendum.
The school currently uses hot water to heat its building, but there is no air conditioning or climate control. The new system would provide room-controlled air conditioning, heating and improved air ventilation through the entire building at a cost of about $10 million.
If voters approve the referendum, the state will cover 40 percent of the cost, rounding up to about $4 million dollars. The other 60 percent will be covered by the district using capital reserves, with no cost to taxpayers.
High-school Business Administrator Kenneth Verrill explained that the funds will go toward the new HVAC units, installation, construction and electric, in addition to “soft costs” that include architect and engineering fees, along with any other contingency costs.
“Eastern has been very conservative over the years and has been able to save this money because quite frankly, they knew it was coming,” Verrill said.
He noted that in addition to the school building’s aging infrastructure, some of the unit ventilators were a product of the 1960s and were becoming harder to get parts for.
“This will take care of all of that in one foul swoop,” Verrill added.
The bond will be paid back over the course of three years with district capital reserve funds.
District Superintendent Robert Cloutier said that while the district has discussed upgrading the heating system for a while, the subject gained momentum after the meetings he had with parents and board members following COVID lockdowns in the summer of 2020.
“One of the topics parents wanted to talk about was the quality of the ventilation systems,” Cloutier explained. “The parents’ contributions have been there from the very start. We wanted to have an HVAC system that was most beneficial for the health and safety of our students and staff.
“This project really came to a head because we wanted to have discussions on how we can make sure students are safe when returning to school,” he added.
Construction would likely take two years, with most of the work to be done next summer and through 2023. Verrill added that the length of construction would depend on the availability of supplies, given current global supply chain issues.
Voters must be registered by Nov. 23 to vote on the referendum. To learn more, visit https://www.eccrsd.us/Page/3700. Polling locations can be found at https://www.eccrsd.us/Page/3703. Voting can be done by mail or on Dec. 14 from 2 to 8 p.m.
Questions about the bond referendum can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.