Northampton’s Elementary Schools need $20 million in upgrades

March 25, 2021
Occohannock Elementary School

Northampton County will spend approximately $20 million on upgrades to Occohannock and Kiptopeke Elementary Schools following action by the Board of Supervisors at their work session Tuesday evening.

The schools are in need of major upgrades to their windows, piping, boilers, chillers, HVAC systems and more.

Nathan Botwright with ABM Consultants presented two possible scenarios to the Supervisors.

The first looked at replacing failing piping in the heating system, and then replacing boilers, HVAC and lights with similar equipment over a 50 year horizon, along with required building maintenance.  This scenario would cost approximately $7.1 million apiece. The other needed repairs would be replaced in subsequent years, also one at a time. This scenario would end up costing the county approximately $50 million in life cycle replacement costs.

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A second scenario would cost the County approximately $9.8 million per school over the next 2 years, replacing the failing piping in one school this summer and the other next summer.  Other needed repairs including upgrading all HVAC and lighting as well as necessary building repairs would be completed during the same time frame.  This plan, using savings from more efficient systems (including geothermal heating and cooling and LED lights) would cost the County $34 million over the expected 50 year lifespan.

The Board heard a presentation from Davenport and Company on potential financing plans. A revenue cocktail including financing, state and federal monies, use of some of the County’s rainy day funds and more is expected to be used.

The upgrades are not expected to interfere with the construction of the new Northampton High School and Middle School.

The Supervisors did not seem happy at the end of the discussion about these revelations.

“A year ago the elementary schools were fine,” said John Coker.

Dixon Leatherbury added “it seems like to me somebody didn’t know what they were talking about.”

“We have to work together to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” replied Coker.

The Board felt strongly that both school’s piping should be replaced as soon as possible and requested that plans be made to complete both elementary schools this summer. A motion was made by John Coker to opt for the second scenario and it passed unanimously. Because the County will be issuing bonds for the upgrades to the elementary schools, there will be a public hearing.

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Following the discussion, Superintendent Eddie Lawrence addressed the board and said the HVAC systems have lasted 8 years longer than their lifespan, and the issues with the piping are the fault of who ever bought it when the schools were constructed.

This article was updated to correct the price tag of the first option from $6 million to $7.1 million.


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