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Norwin officials OK $6.5M vo-tech upgrade

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By Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Saturday, June 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Norwin school directors this week approved a $6.5 million plan for upgrades at Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center after refusing to vote on a $9.1 million project proposal earlier this year.

The decision not to vote on the project in January essentially said “no” to the plan and sent it back to the drawing board.

Nine local school districts send students to the vocational-technical school in New Stanton. Before work can begin, all must OK the “Energy Savings Agreement with Johnson Controls,” the building's first rehab since 1975.

Norwin Director Barb Viola is chairwoman of the vo-tech's joint operating committee, which represents the nine school boards.

So far, Viola said, Belle Vernon Area, Greensburg Salem, Mt. Pleasant Area, Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Southmoreland and Yough school districts have approved the project.

Hempfield Area and Jeannette school districts will vote on Monday, according to Brad Elwood, the center's administrative director.

The $6.5 million cost will be divided among those districts, based upon enrollment at the vo-tech school.

The proposed project includes work on the building's lighting and electrical systems, boiler, heating, ventilation and water systems and cooling tower, as well as roof replacement, plumbing and water conservation.

“It really was driven by the need for three major projects — boilers, roof and exhaust systems in the welding areas of the school,” Viola said. “Given the cost that those three things would entail, we looked at going under a guaranteed savings project, which would allow us to save some money and get some other things done as well.”

If all the districts approve the project, work would begin at month's end, with the heating system work complete by the end of October, Viola said.

In January, the nine school districts considered a $9.1 million proposal for upgrades from Chevron. A vo-tech official told Norwin school directors then that Chevron and Honeywell submitted bids for the project, but only Chevron's bid was complete.

“Norwin was unhappy that it hadn't gone through the proper bidding channels. That was a very costly project,” Viola said. “We didn't vote on the resolution at that point, so that kind of shut down the project.”

After that, the vo-tech's joint operating committee hired an engineer and received a bid of $6.8 million from Chevron and a bid of $7.2 Johnson Controls, Viola said.

The bid from Johnson Controls provided more energy savings, she said.

Then, she said, the project was whittled down to the $6.5 million price tag.

The scope of the work has been altered through “value engineering efforts,” which “maximize project efficacy” and cut costs, Elwood said in an email.

“Saving the district money is what's important,” Viola told school directors before they voted this week.

Viola praised the vo-tech committee and district superintendents for their work on the project.

“We've come a long way from $9.1 (million) to $6.5 (million), and everything that needs to be done is going to be done,” Viola said at a school board meeting earlier this month.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or

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