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By Caroline Downs
A coal-fired boiler may become a relic of the past at Kenmare High School as early as next summer, depending on how the Kenmare school board responds to the recommendation from its Building Committee.
In a meeting held November 6th, members of the Building Committee reviewed the electric boiler study submitted by Obermiller-Nelson Engineering, Inc. (ONE) on October 16th. In the report, engineers Andrew Bartsch and James E. Nelson reviewed five options for replacing the existing coal-fired system.
The first option involved installation of an electric boiler on MDU’s electric heat rate, with annual utility bills estimated at $59,000 for heating and $28,000 for lights. Option 2 involved an electric boiler on MDU’s time-of-day rate, with total utility bills estimated at $105,000.
Option 3 combined the use of an electric boiler on MDU’s time-of-day rate with two propane boilers to provide heat during on-peak hours for total annual utility bills estimated at $85,000.
The fourth option considered the use of a heat pump system (geothermal), but was considered unfeasible at a cost exceeding $2 million. Option 5 included the installation of thermal storage boilers, but the 16 units that would be required for the high school building raised concerns about cost and space.
Members of the Building Committee discussed options 1 and 3, with Option 1 carrying a price estimate of $230,000 for installed costs, including piping, pumps, demolition, electric service and controls. The 1,250 kW electric boiler that would be installed would have enough capacity to heat the current building as well as the addition proposed. The study also listed a 1,000 kW boiler that would have capacity to heat the current building only, at a price of $200,000.
The price estimate for Option 3, with the 1,250 kW electric boiler and added propane boilers, was $510,000.
Committee chairman Lenny Rodin recommended Option 1 with the larger boiler. “I’d like to see us prepare for possible expansion,” he said, “and we’re never going to upgrade later for only $30,000.”
Doug Miller agreed. “It’s easier to go just a little bigger now,” he said.
Business manager Renae Murphy said the estimated annual utility costs for Option 1, at $87,000, were similar to what the school pays now. “It’s not that far off from what we’re paying for coal,” she said.
The committee members wanted to see the project done during the summer of 2013 if possible, and discussed options for payment, including raising the mill levy, asking voters to approve a 10 mill tax increase for the Building Fund, or funding the project out of the district’s budget and carryover.
According to Murphy, a 10 mill tax increase would generate approximately another $200,000 for the district’s Building Fund. “For a $10 million building, that’s a really small dollar amount,” she said, adding that the KHS building is now valued at $10 million.
Nelson voiced support for the 10 mill levy, but Rodin preferred to see the district fund the project out of the budget. “We can find other areas to make up for it,” he said, adding that bus purchases could be eliminated for the next year or two. “I’m not comfortable going to a vote of the people, knowing we can make it work.”
Action will take place at the November 20th board meeting on the recommendation to purchase and install a 1,250 kW electric boiler at the high school.
The committee will also recommend the board moves ahead with a project to replace ceiling tiles at the high school, following a recent lab analysis that indicated the absence of asbestos in the current tiles.
Michele Nelson expressed her concern that a former report dated from the late 1980s or early 1990s specified the presence of one percent asbestos. “Now, do we get a third report, to be sure?” she asked.
Superintendent Mueller said the inspector familiar with the most recent lab report said the school could proceed with the tile removal and replacement.
The committee reviewed cost estimates for the project submitted by Rob Wittman Construction, including $3,600 for the back entry area, $40,000 for the commons area, $29,000 for the locker rooms, $6,000 for the ramp areas, and $15,000 for the office and teachers’ lounge.
“As far as the feasibility of [paying for] this project, I don’t see why the district couldn’t handle it,” Murphy said.
Nelson raised a second concern about unforeseen aspects of the project, but Murphy suggested the board schedule Wittman to do the back entry during the Christmas break. “That way, you’ll see what it’s like,” she said.
Mueller noted the tile removal and replacement couldn’t take place in large areas, such as the commons and locker rooms, until the summer of 2013.
Keeping water out
of the crawl space
Superintendent Duane Mueller reported he would be researching the cost of an industrial-sized dehumidifier to install in the crawl space below the high school classrooms in order to combat the air quality and water issues in that area. “Outside, we have to look at what we can do to get water farther away from the building,” he added.
Committee members mentioned several locations around the school where water could be seen running down the walls or into cracks possibly leading to the crawl space. Mueller noted he would have more information at the November 20th board meeting.
proposed KHS addition
Committee members asked about other projects to consider for future planning. Superintendent Mueller listed the need for carpet replacement in the band room, repair or replacement of seats in the back portion of the auditorium, replacement of the entry doors at Kenmare Elementary School to reduce or prevent heat loss, and consideration of the shop area for renovation.
Mueller reported the gas smell in the science classrooms had been addressed, with leaks in both the sewer vents and the propane lines now fixed.
Work has started at the high school to install the Mobius Climber playground equipment, which should be finished later this week.
The committee finished the meeting with a brief discussion about the addition proposed for the high school, including classrooms, a new gymnasium, and a weight room and wellness center.
Nelson had several questions about the layout and operation of the wellness center, especially related to the wellness center’s availability to and use by the public. She and Miller both commented about the importance of providing those facilities to the district’s students.
The Building Committee and the full board will discuss the proposed addition and the steps needed to proceed with the project on November 20th with representatives of Kraus-Anderson Construction, beginning at 5 pm at Kenmare High School. The regular board meeting follows at 6 pm.