Trustees Q&A: New HVAC Project to Begin Soon

At the first of two Q&A sessions, members of the Board of Trustees reported on current and coming improvements to our church building: security enhancements, Covid-related projects, and a $2 million HVAC project, slated to begin in January. Trustees Jim Spearman, Hal Hiemstra and Aryn Myers summarized the projects, and Karl Hoffman provided information on financing. Elder David Gillies also answered questions, especially related to a possible 2021 Capital Campaign.

All these building projects  provide significant improvements, and symbolize our continued commitment to the future of NYAPC, Hal Hiemstra said in introducing the session.

Security Improvements
Our elevator and stairways now have a security and keycard system, an improvement made necessary by having the Downtown Day Services Center, serving 150-200 clients per day in non-Covid times, in our basement. This will ensure that the clients don’t enter our office space or other tenants’ spaces, such as the McClendon Center on the fifth floor. These systems are programmable, meaning that they can be adjusted on a Sunday morning, for example, to give the congregation freer access to the building.

Covid-Related Updates
With the pandemic’s arrival, the Trustees realized how difficult it is to come into our building and not touch multiple surfaces. So, we now have touchless faucets and touchless soap and hand-towel dispensers in all bathrooms. In addition, the Trustees installed floor, wall and elevator Covid signage, and will soon install plexiglass at the front desk to minimize direct air exchange.

HVAC Replacement
This work would replace the HVAC on the first through fourth floors, completing what has been a years-long multi-phase effort to upgrade our building’s HVAC system. The first phase replaced the HVAC system on the fifth floor in 2015. A second phase replaced the Park level HVAC system in 2018 with the renovation of the basement for the Day Services Center.  This final phase should begin in January and end in May, perhaps coinciding with our congregation and tenants’ possible return to the building.

Historically low interest rates and a largely vacant building due to the pandemic have combined for a unique opportunity to do the whole job for what is a lower cost than the previously planned stage by stage plan. Workers won’t need to plan their work around building occupants, e.g. working at night, and the low interest rates mean that the line of credit payments  can be managed in our annual operating budget. 

Benefits of the Replacement. The Trustees noted that the current HVAC situation is unsustainable. Repair costs and remediation of mold caused by the malfunction of the system have cost an average of $70,000 a year. In addition, the new system will reduce effort of staff and volunteers and lower utility costs, especially water consumption, as the new system will no longer use a cooling tower. More definite estimates of energy savings will be part of the final project proposal, coming in December. Finally, stabilized temperatures and humidity control should eliminate the warm weather mold problem and air filtration will improve air quality.

Financing. This new line of credit is a continuation of how we have been paying for building improvements since 2014, when urgent exterior repairs needed to be made. We have mostly paid off debt from that project, along with other capital priorities such as the fifth floor HVAC, due to a previous capital campaign and several special gifts and bequests.

Currently, the church has a fixed interest term loan for $700,000, the cost of the basement HVAC system, which the Business Improvement District is paying off over time as part of their lease for the Downtown Day Services Center. In addition, approximately $200 – $300 thousand remains from the previous capital projects. The $700,000 term loan will remain separate, and a new $2.6 million line of credit will combine the rest of our existing debt with the cost of the new HVAC. It is collateralized by our current investments.

A New Capital Campaign
A small team is looking at the contours of a new capital campaign to pay for this new system, in addition to other capital needs. The new line of credit is a variable rate loan. Current rates are extraordinarily low, but could rise in the next few years; a capital campaign would help us to pay it down in a timely manner.

The Trustees will hold another Q&A after worship on Dec. 13.