By Stefanie Jackson – The Northampton Board of Supervisors was presented a nearly $3 million project Sept. 28, which will bring the former Northampton Middle School, in Machipongo, one step closer to its conversion to a community center and emergency shelter.
“This project needs to go forward … if there’s going to be any use at all for the facility,” said County Administrator Charlie Kolakowski.
The project plan was presented by ABM, a facilities management and building maintenance company that specializes in energy efficiency solutions.
The middle school currently has an old boiler and chiller system, and the boiler is “on its last legs,” Kolakowski said. The chiller is no longer in use, and the boiler also will be taken offline.
HVAC upgrades to be performed by ABM include the installation of two air handlers for the gym, which will provide both heating and cooling. Also to be replaced are an HVAC rooftop unit for the cafeteria and a split system for the serving area.
Besides heating and cooling, the new HVAC system will improve indoor air quality, ABM reported.
The building’s automation system will be upgraded, including integration of the fire alarm.
The $3 million price tag includes ABM providing construction management and oversight for the design, bidding, and acquisition of a pitched metal roof and an 800-kilowatt emergency generator and Northampton County working with two contractors for the purchase and installation of the roof and generator.
Upgrades to the middle school building envelope will include installation of windows in the gym, decreasing air infiltration by sealing and caulking windows and other measures, and covering the front windows with an energy-saving film.
Kolakowski confirmed that Northampton had received a nearly $350,000 grant (from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management) to be applied to the cost of the emergency generator. He also noted the county was selected to receive a $2 million state grant, included in Gov. Ralph Northam’s budget, to convert the middle school into a storm shelter.
Supervisor David Fauber asked why the former middle school will be used as an emergency shelter when there were already plans to include an emergency shelter in the upgrade of Northampton High School.
Kolakowski explained that the high school gym will be updated to use as an emergency shelter during an immediate need, but if shelter was needed for an extended period, such as a week, it would be better to relocate the people to the former middle school so school services could continue uninterrupted in the current high and middle school building.
ABM’s services will cost around $1.5 million and provide energy cost savings of about $11,500 in the first year and $214,000 total in 15 years.
The roof and generator will cost less than $1.5 million combined – approximately $700,000 for the roof, which will have a 40-year warranty, and $770,000 for the generator.
Northampton budgeted $200,000 to spend on the middle school project this year, leaving a shortfall of about $400,000 after the grant funds are spent.
That could be filled by American Rescue Plan funding or additional grants, Kolakowski said.
He noted the new roof will not cover the entire building, just the areas currently used by Northampton’s parks and recreation department, such as the gym and cafeteria. Additional roofing could be installed in a future phase of the project.
Kolakowski noted benefits of the project included heating and air conditioning in the gym to support parks and recreation programs year-round and adjoining office space for parks and recreation.
Northampton will no longer need to rely on Accomack County to provide emergency shelter, although Kolakowski said he would like to keep Northampton’s options open.
Supervisors are expected to vote on the plan to improve the former middle school at their next meeting Oct. 12.