Air conditioning outage at Senior Center affects multiple groups

Long-term fix is expensive

by Kate Evans

The air conditioning at the Senior Life Services of Morgan County building — the former U.S. Silica in Berkeley Springs — hasn’t been working right for over six weeks. The entire facility was affected at first, but repair work was done that fixed the air conditioning in half of the building.

The Senior Center hasn’t had to close but temperatures inside the building have been uncomfortable.

Senior Life Services Executive Director Tammy Kees said that the air conditioning issues started around the end of May and were again due to compressor problems. Half of the air conditioning is now up and running.  The other half of the building has moderate air blowing, but is pretty warm.

In the summer of 2018 the Berkeley Springs Senior Center building had major air conditioning issues due to their compressors.  The senior center was closed on four different days then due to heat advisories of more than 95 degrees.

Portable units available

Kees said the temperatures in the main area of the building have been in the 80s.  The rooms of other agencies housed in the building are hotter since their space is smaller and is closed in at night. Kees said they have 17 portable air conditioning units available to be installed in individual spaces.

Some of the portable air conditioning units have been installed.  Others she’s waiting to hear back from agencies and businesses in the building about where they want them installed.

Expensive to fix

Kees said that the senior center paid nearly $13,000 the first week of June for several small parts, solenoid, refrigerant and other supplies.  They still didn’t have air conditioning since a part was on order.  That bill included $5,300 in labor.  Another bill was $1,753.

Kees said that the problem started with them waiting for an air conditioning part.

“All of America is waiting for a part,” she noted.

Kees also spent $8,000 for 10 portable air conditioners and is getting seven more air conditioners for over $5,000. Kees said that the portable air conditioners are just a temporary fix and not sustainable in the long term.

The Senior Life Services Board of Directors is looking at their long-term options and avenues for fixing the problem, which basically means replacing their obsolete ground air conditioning units.

The smallest estimate they’ve had to resolve the air conditioning issues is $450,000.

Senior Life Services needs funding to address the problem. There is nothing set up in the state of West Virginia for taking care of senior center facilities, Kees said. There are some grant possibilities, but nothing is definite.

Programs continue

Kees said that the air conditioning issues aren’t impacting the senior center’s programs or services.  Their kitchen and their multi-purpose/dance room both have separate air conditioning units that work.

They are still doing exercise, dance and bingo.  The seniors choose to stay in the main activity area since it’s warmer, she noted. The outdoor senior center pavilion is always open, Kees said.  They have great big fans that constantly blow air out there.

Other agencies in building

A number of community agencies and businesses rent space in the building from Senior Life Services including Morgan County Starting Points, Audibel, U.S. Silica, EPEC, WIC, Shenandoah Behavioral Health, Christina Freels Counseling and Life or Drugs, Tri-State Support, Kees said.

Life or Drugs, Tri-State Support said in a Facebook post that they were looking for a location to hold their Tuesday and Thursday support meetings in town since the air conditioning has been out at the senior center.

They tried to install a portable air conditioning unit in their room but it was still too hot.  The organization was using the pavilion behind the senior center but couldn’t use Zoom outside.  They are now temporarily holding their support meetings at DRC at the Pines Center.

Kees said that her priority has been taking the best care of everyone they serve in the building.  She wants it to be a place that they want to come to.  The Senior Life Services building serves all ages from birth to end of life with all of the resources that it holds.

“We do our best,” Kees said.