Electrical supply chain issues have been ongoing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Mission CISD is seeing the effects directly.
The Salinas Elementary HVAC project that contractors estimated would take 240 days to complete could potentially have another 577 days added to the timeline. But district administrators are still holding out hope for other options.
Part of MCISD’s five-year improvement plan includes upgrading HVAC systems at all campuses, also known as indoor air quality projects. According to district documents, some projects are more complicated than others; the project at Salinas Elementary was considered less intensive.
The scope of work at Salinas consisted of replacing the 27-year-old HVAC system, which included converting the heating source from hot water to electric in order to reduce maintenance. Additionally, DBR Engineering wanted to change the system from a three-switchboard design to a one-switchboard design, meaning that one switch can kill the electrical power to the whole campus.
According to DBR Principal Engineer Hugo Avila, the three-switchboard system is considered good practice — still acceptable by code and good by industry standards. However, a one-switchboard system is considered best practice, and he wanted to upgrade Salinas Elementary.
But because the one switchboard system requires more amperage, it means more specialized equipment. And specialized equipment means more difficulty getting the product from the manufacturer because of supply chain issues, all of which lead to longer lead times.
An email from product manufacturer Siemens states the lead time for a switchboard is up to 76 weeks.
“What we’re seeing when it comes to gear like this is we’re designing for best [practices], but we’re being asked to design good [practices]. Why? Because we can break 1,600 amps into smaller [amps]. It still meets code, and I can get that faster,” Avila said. “So we are seeing some projects go the other way, where they’re saying, ‘Let’s get some good practices that still meets code and get us the equipment that we need on time.’”
Despite the known supply chain issues, Assistant Superintendent for Operations Rick Rivera is skeptical of the new proposed timeline, which has a projected completion date of Aug. 27, 2025.
“After I graduated from high school, I entered into the electrical business for 14 years. I’m very familiar with everything because I did it. That’s where all my questions came in for Mr. Avila. And do I accept all the answers? Not totally,” Rivera said at the December workshop. “I understand manufacturers have delays…but for delays of 577 days, I just can’t swallow that.”
Rivera reiterated that Salinas Elementary would still be up to code with a three-switchboard system. But ultimately, it is the school board’s decision.
Board President Roy Vela voiced his thoughts on the matter.
“I think the board is wanting to do best [practices], but the timeline of completion…waiting until 2025 is unacceptable,” he said.
At the December board of trustees meeting, administration pulled the item from the agenda, stating they were still working on alternative solutions and needed more time before presenting the options to the school board.