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Peoria High School Arts Center Needs New HVAC System

After voters authorized $41.7 million for renovations at Peoria High School, the 28-year-old heating and cooling system in the Performing Arts Center finally gave out this fall.

Temporary heaters have kept the arts center at tolerable temperatures since the Valley’s first cold spell in September, and will continue to do so until the unit can be replaced this spring, Peoria Unified School District officials said.

Now too old for repairs, replacing the system could cost the cash-strapped district about $250,000, which will come from bond proceeds, officials said.

School board member Diane Douglas at Thursday’s meeting pressed for answers about why the old system wasn’t replaced when the campus went through massive upgrades several years ago.

She noted the arts center was among several facilities on the campus that was supposed to have work done as part of voter-approved bond projects.

“I can’t believe something as glaring as 28-year-old air-conditioning and heating units were not picked up in the scope of the work,” Douglas said.

Staff was unable to offer a reason.

“I apologize, I cannot answer that question,” Michael Finn, Peoria’s chief financial officer, told the school board. “That decision was made before my time.”

Voters in 2002 and 2005 authorized borrowing $39 million in bonds for projects at the high school. Nearly $3 million more was taken from other bond projects to complete the campus renovation.

Bond proceeds funded construction of a two-story academic building, a new administration building, library, science facility and sports complex.

Taxpayers also paid for renovations to facilities such as the swimming pool, cafeteria and the historic Old Main building.

As for the arts center, separate funding from the state School Facilities Board recently paid for a new roof. The bond money funded only the addition of a dance studio at the arts center.

“The HVAC units were in the budget to be replaced, however an acceptable time to do the work was never established,” Finn said. “With the most recent problems, the district will ensure they are completed to ensure proper cooling when the temperatures begin to rise.”

Superintendent Denton Santarelli and Finn said they will gather more details about the work done at the art center, and why the HVAC unit wasn’t upgraded, and bring their findings back to the board.

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