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Session Approves HVAC Task Force Recommendations

At its May meeting Session unanimously approved the final report of the HVAC Task Force and the accompanying motion, with gratitude.  This action was taken after the Task Force first shared its finding with Session in March, and later presented its motion for a “first read” in April.  After each of these meetings summary articles inviting questions were written for the congregation.  

The good, new news is that a recent boiler examination revealed that with some modest repairs that are being made, our current gas boiler is expected to have a remaining life of at least 5 years, and quite possibly up to 10 years.  This allows for a more leisurely, phased replacement strategy than was originally thought to be the case when the Task Force was appointed last September.  

During the remainder of 2020 and into 2021, it is expected that the church will perform recommended boiler repairs plus deferred maintenance on portions of the system which will be maintained for the future; install new controls to make the heating system operate effectively; add insulation to buildings where feasible (excluding the Sanctuary and Chapel) in order to conserve energy; and address some issues with the choir loft and music room.  The HVAC portions of the above work should cost an estimated $84,000.  

Following these efforts to stabilize our existing system, the concept of implementing a distributed system of electric-based heat pumps, building by building, during the rest of this decade was approved.  This would eventually allow each building to be heated independently of the others, a far more energy efficient capability, and eventually the central gas boiler could be retired if all work can be completed. The heat pumps might be 3 to 5 times as efficient in their energy use than our current gas boiler.  In today’s dollars it is estimated that this work might cost approximately $287,000.   Together with the above projects, the total estimate of $371,000 spread over 6-10 years is far less than the original estimate of up to $1 million.  

Session further approved the creation of a new Working Group to complete the study of solar and EV charging opportunities which was started by the Task Force.  If such projects are undertaken, it is hoped they will break even financially over the long run. 

The motion to Session was written in an effort to find the appropriate balance between (1) seeking a church commitment for some short and longer range actions and financial plans, and (2) understanding and supporting the necessity for the church to remain flexible given the uncertainties of our time.  It is understood that Session commitments could change over time as the church adjusts to our changing world and considers other church priorities that might emerge.  As these future projects are brought forward from the Facilities Committee to Session for approval, the expectation is that they can be funded with existing church financial resources, spread out over many years, avoiding the need for a capital campaign or loan.  

The last action Session took was to dissolve the Task Force.  Members of the Task Force were Margaret Ann Fidler and Lee Merkle-Raymond, co-chairs, and Alec Henderson, Rick Keller and Melissa Kirven.  Susan Phinney Silver and Bruce Reyes-Chow were ex-officio members.  

The HVAC Task Force or Session would once again welcome any comments or questions.  Additionally, if there is any interest in a congregational discussion, this can be arranged over Zoom.  You can reach either group at or