New $49 million Hampden high school dealing with heat problems, falling ceiling tiles

Hampden Academy, as seen from the air earlier in August, 2012. The new $49.2 million high school still has a few bugs to be ironed out.
SAD 22
Hampden Academy, as seen from the air earlier in August, 2012. The new $49.2 million high school still has a few bugs to be ironed out.
Posted March 05, 2013, at 10:36 p.m.
Last modified March 06, 2013, at 9:59 a.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — Six months after the new Hampden academy opened for its first academic year, school officials and builders are still addressing problems with the second most expensive high school facility in Maine.

SAD 22 officials came to Monday’s Hampden Town Council meeting to answer questions about complaints councilors have heard from townspeople and students about the lack of heat and falling ceiling tiles at the cutting-edge high school and community center.

The school is home to the largest geothermal system in Maine; a closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling system featuring 156 500-foot wells, water-to-water and water-to-air pumps, and air-side energy recovery systems.

SAD 22 Superintendent of Schools Rick Lyons, school board member Martha Harris and Assistant Superintendent for Business Emil Genest addressed concerns over some “glitches and issues” voiced about the new $49.2 million facility, which officially opened Aug. 29.

“I’ve heard that students have had to wear sweaters and coats because it was too cold in places and that tiles were falling down,” said Councilor Bill Shakespeare.

Genest explained that there were some problems with a dozen or so oval ceiling tiles, measuring about 7 to 8 feet across, falling down in the Hampden Academy Performing Arts Center.

“The problem came from some delaminated acoustical tiles that weren’t installed properly,” Genest said. “They were removed and should be replaced this summer.”

Genest, who has estimated approximately $150,000 in annual fuel savings with the new heating/cooling systems, said the systems could pay for themselves in five to seven years but there are still some bugs to be worked out.

He said the school’s advanced geothermal heating system is still being fine tuned and calibrated. There also may be an air filtration gap.

A ventilation problem with the skylight in the school’s library was discovered and addressed. The calibration will be adjusted soon, and thermal imaging will be used to pinpoint the source of any lingering filtration or ventilation problems.

“My understanding is it isn’t unusual to have some glitches regarding heating and similar areas in a facility like the new building,” he said.

The School Department won’t have to pay for any of the repairs or replacements as they are covered by a one-year warranty, Lyons pointed out.

Shakespeare and Councilor Thomas Brann also asked if there were any liens placed on the property by contractors or subcontractors.

Lyons said two liens totaling several hundred thousand dollars were filed by two subcontractors, but that the general contractor, J and J Construction of Massachusetts, assumed them and settled with the two other parties.

“There was an issue between the two subcontractors and J and J, not the school system. One of their tools or options is to put in a lien against the property, and technically the owner of something like that is the contractor until construction is finished,” Genest said.

In other business, the council:

— Swore in its newest councilor, David Ryder, who received 84 of 88 votes cast as the only candidate during a special District Four election last week. Ryder is filling the spot vacated by Jeremy Williams midway through his first term. Williams said he resigned his seat because of time constraints and scheduling conflicts with his job as supervisor of fleet services at Bangor Hydro Electric Co.

— Voted unanimously in favor of a city staff request to use as much as $750 in reserve funds to purchase new GIS/IT — Geographic InfoSystems Internet Technology — programs for converting all property, business and land aerial photography into much more user-friendly forms for use in everything from online surveying to real estate.

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