The CCM bookstore has turned off primary lights and set up fans and a dehumidifier provided by the college while their air conditioning is off. Photo by: Brett Friedensohn
By Jannat Sheikh
The County College of Morris replacing its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system in the Student Community Center has made for a long, hot summer for those housed in the building.
The goal is finishing by the third week of August, and the SCC has not run HVAC since the renovations began, making the building susceptible to heat and humidity until the new system is expected to turn on at the end of the summer.
The college is performing the approximated $2 million overhaul, outsourced to De Sesa Engineering who has performed similar renovations to the academic buildings and to the Health and Physical Education building, due to the old system being obsolete as it was last replaced between 1999 and 2000, according to vice president of business and finance Karen VanDerhoof who said that the new system will include new sanitizing systems, boiler air handlers, improved air distribution, and the ability for each department to control its own climate.
She also said the reason CCM chose to do the installation during the summer rather than the winter months is because the employees who occupy the building would have a harder time coping with the cold, and thus, the college would run the risk of freezing pipes; they are not doing it in fall or spring because it would affect the largest number of students during the academic year.
“There’s no ideal time,” VanDerhoof said. “So we try to do it when it affects the least amount of people, the less students on campus, and when we’re not at risk for building damage.”
Employees in the building are provided with fans, dehumidifiers, and cool water throughout the day, and are also encouraged to take more breaks whenever they need to have cooler air, according to vice president of student development and enrollment management Dr. Bette Simmons, who works on the building’s first floor.
“Obviously, when the temperature and humidity levels rise, it is uncomfortable to work in the building,” Simmons said. “However, the college has taken all the necessary precautions to make sure that the air quality in the building is monitored frequently.”
Don Phelps, the associate director of the campus life office, said that he and the other employees go to different locations to relax and cool down from the heat.
“I usually go to the Cohen Hall cafe, or the LRC,” Phelps said. “There was one day last week where-again [I] just wanted to go to the LRC for 5-10 minutes, just answering emails over there.”
In addition, Phelps said that the renovations had not been too much of an inconvenience for him.
“I’m fortunate that my job requires me to be outside the building for meetings throughout the day,” Phelps said. “So I have some breaks built in.”
Kelly Wallace, an assistant in the bookstore on the second floor of SCC, said she found discomfort in the lack of air conditioning.
“The heat has been very hard to deal with,” Wallace said. “The school has given each department in the building numerous fans to try and alleviate the problem, but there is only so much that can be done.”
Despite these efforts, Bilal Awan, a business administration major at CCM, who took early 5-week summer classes and often studied at the SCC also felt uncomfortable.
“It was so hot there,” Awan, said. “It was hard to breathe. There was so much humidity.”
There were other students who tried studying in building according to Awan, but it was uneasy to remain in the excessive heat.
The dehumidifiers generate more heat and take the humidity out of the air, making the environment more uncomfortable, according to Debbie Hatcher, the Bursar who works on the second floor of the SCC. Hatcher said that she is not falling behind on any of her work, but due to the heat, she said she is not as productive as she would like to be.
Kristy Baker, an accounting assistant at the bursar office said that the heat is not too annoying until the humidity gets high.
“[The office] just gets really stuffy,” Baker said. “As far as the heat goes, I don’t really mind the heat. We’re just hoping that they’re on schedule, and they’ll get it done.”
Sandy Hyder and Nancy McDonough from the records and registration office, also on the second floor of the SCC, expressed their concern about the first day of the renovations. They said the first few days were the worst because fans and water were not distributed.
“It’s very muggy in here, unbearable at times,” said Hyder. “If you come in on a Monday, it smells from just being closed up all weekend.”
Furthermore, Hyder and McDonough said that some people had bright red skin on the first day, and they feared the possibility of heat strokes.
The near-record heat wave in the first weeks of June was expected to cool down and drop approximately 20 degrees in temperature towards the end of June, according to NJ.com. However, damp days, cloudy skies and cooler than normal temperatures may take over the summer. In New Jersey, the average high temperatures from July to August are in the 80’s while the average low temperatures from July to August are in the 60’s, according to Weather.com.
As far as the academic complex is concerned, CCM is not replacing the HVAC system there, according to Simmons.
The fall 2017 semester will begin Aug. 30 which includes Full Semester, Early Start 2-week, 5-week and early Finish 8-week classes.