BARNEGAT, NJ – At a special meeting late this afternoon, Barnegat Board of Education members approved a $1.7M contract for the Russell O. Brackman Middle School Replacement Project. The Board of Education intends to use Capital Reserve Funds to finance the contract to Framan Mechanical. Of four contractors, Framan submitted the lowest base bid.

Barnegat resident Robert Crawford questioned how the determination was made as far as the need for the replacement of the HVAC units at the middle school. In response to his inquiries regarding third party recommendations, Crawford was advised that Diesel Architectural Group did the facilities assessment and drew up the specifications for the bid.

According to Steve Brennan, the school district’s Business Administrator/Board Secretary, the Board conducted a facility needs assessment approximately a year ago. At that time, board members determined that the HVAC replacement represented a critical item. The chiller on the gym was also included in the bidding process and jointly came in under the budgeted amount of $2M.

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“Issues with our geothermal indicate the more than 30-year-old system is failing at a rapid pace,” shared Brennan. “We need to get the new infrastructure, meaning the replacement of the   geothermal with a boiler system in place by heating system of next year.”

Crawford, who works in commercial real estate development, said his job required him to secure maintenance and operational records for projects of this nature. At his request, the district offered to share records with the Barnegat resident.

“I do applaud the proactiveness,” said Crawford, after hearing further details of the proposed project. “If the details had been available online, I would not have asked for the justification.”

Board member Sean O’Brien expressed his concerns that the high school field was prioritized over the replacement HVAC system. He also asked about affordability considering prospective loss of state funding, which Brennan said he did not foresee a problem despite uncertainties.

“As far as order of preference, this project was supposed to be funded as part of an energy savings improvement plan,” explained Brennan. “The condition of the system was a little more dire than originally anticipated.”

Presently, the roof chiller is not working at all. The current geothermal does not consistently operate and represents a risk. Water is being pushed through the ground and there is the potential for pipes breaking and causing further damage.

According to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Latwis, the lack of climate control could force classes to move to the media center.

“You’re talking about a situation not conducive to learning,” Latwis said. “This would mean four or five classes in one place together.”

Replacement of the HVAC system at Brackman passed with full board approval. The project should conclude by October 15, 2020.