Air Conditioning Unit Demand Meets Critique and Resistance

The Board of Public Works voted this week to push two school districts to purchase and install portable air conditioning units in classrooms.

As reported in the Baltimore Sun, the Board of Public Works voted 2-1 Wednesday to withhold school construction and renovation funding from Baltimore City and Baltimore County school systems, requesting they provide portable air conditioning units to cool classrooms that do not yet have central air conditioning.

Treasurer Nancy Kopp, voted against withholding the money. As reported in the Sun, she was critical of the decision,

“This is a travesty,” Kopp said. “I believe it’s also probably illegal for the Board of Public Works to decide to cram down its priority on the local planning system.”

Dr. Lever, the State’s top school construction official and member of the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) resigned following the meeting, stating that,

“It appears that the Board of Public Works now intends to use its authority over capital funding to compel school systems to meet its objectives, irrespective of whether these objectives align with local priorities and the recommendations of the IAC.

With regard to a response from the local governments involved, Baltimore County Executive Kamenetz has said he has a plan for installing central air conditioning in all schools. As reported in the Sun,

Kamenetz said spending money on portable air conditioners as a short-term fix would not be fiscally responsible. He said the governor wants to “prioritize politics over building 21st-century schools.”

Baltimore City school officials issued a statement that the decision to withhold funding jeopardizes other critical facility projects and is not practical, as reported in the Sun,

The statement said it would cost “more than $25 million to comply with the directive from the Board of Public Works — money that the district does not have. It is further impractical to mandate that we install portable air units in 2,000 classrooms by September.”

For more information, see the full story from the Sun.