The bells at Salinas High School had been silent for 30 years, but with the help of a few Castroville, Calif., Local 234 members, the chimes are now back up and ringing.
The project is one that hit close to home for the brotherhood's members, as well as for the National Electrical Contractors Association's Monterey Bay Chapter.
"Salinas is the county seat of Monterey, and many of us involved in NECA grew up around here," said Jerri Champlin, executive manager of the NECA chapter, to the Electrical Contractor.
So when Salinas High School Principal Elizabeth Duethman contacted the Class of 1977 to ask for help with repairing the bell tower to honor the 100th anniversary of the school, Local 234 and NECA were all in. Champlin is a member of the Class of '77 and brought the project to the Labor Management Cooperation Committee. Rick Jensen, owner of signatory contractor JM Electric, is also an alum and pitched in.
The LMCC agreed to finance and install the new system, and JM Electric donated a portion of the labor. The school didn't have to pay for anything, said Local 234 Business Manager Lamont Adams.
"This project is a real boost to our community," Adams said. "We were more than happy to help preserve the history of such an iconic structure."
What they might not have predicted was that the project would end up taking about two years to complete.
"When we looked at what needed to be done, we realized that the whole system was shot," Champlin said. "It needed everything."
Adams said members did a total renovation that included updating the bells to a new electronic system that works in conjunction with a marquee in front of the school. The system is comprised of an amplifier, monitor, speaker and control panel that's located in the school's office. Four horn speakers are also mounted in the tower.
The work was completed in May but because of the coronavirus, the high school couldn't do a traditional graduation. Instead, they orchestrated a drive-by style ceremony for the Class of 2020 with the bells finally ringing out. The chimes also rang on the Fourth of July to celebrate the holiday.
The only snag, Lamont noted, was that they may have done too good of a job with the bells.
"On the first day of testing, residents complained about how loud the speakers were," Lamont said. "So the school decided to only ring the bells for special events."
The LMCC has also worked with Habitat for Humanity and has installed scoreboards at numerous local high schools and little league fields.