School district’s boilers to cost additional $100,000

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FARMINGTON – The MSAD 9 school board unanimously approved a modified payment plan for a pair of wood pellet boilers at Tuesday’s meeting, after the company they originally had done business with was bought out.

The board had previously approved a $444,802 QZAB bond to purchase a pair of wood pellet boilers to replace two inoperative oil burning furnaces in the Academy Hill School and Cape Cod Hill School. The schools would then heat primarily with cheaper wood pellets, saving their other, still operational, oil furnace as a back up. 

However, according to Director of Facilities David Leavitt, the company MSAD 9 had approached to buy the boilers has been bought by a Scandinavian company and no longer ships to the United States. The cheapest alternative is ordering a different, more expensive type of boiler through Ontario.

These two boilers would cost $546,726, an additional $101,924. Superintendent Michael Cormier noted that due to the late approval and signing of the original QZAB bond, the first bond payment of $44,541 was not due until September 2009. That $44,000 could therefore be used to help offset the difference.

To make up the rest, the board opted to use money in the budget that had been allocated to operate the Weld School, rather than take out another lease agreement. The Weld School was closed over the summer, but MSAD 9 still allocated funds as it wasn’t known during the budget process if voters would approve the closing.

There was, Cormier said, a total of $95,000 remaining in the Weld School’s budget as an unexpended balance. 

The boilers, Leavitt explained, were more expensive because they had additional features. 

“These can actually burn wood chips also,” he said, “you could choose between green chips or pellets.”

The unprocessed wood chips are simply that; raw slivers of wood. The pellets are a processed version, produced by a mill. Both, Leavitt noted, were at least half the cost of oil, even at the recently depressed price. Wood pellets are currently selling for $153 to $170 per ton, and Leavitt estimated that the two schools would burn 180 tons a year.

In the schools, the inoperative furnace in the Academy Hill School is already gone, while the Cape Cod Hill School’ will be soon. This will leave only a single oil furnace to heat each school. The new boilers will not likely be fully operational until February.

“We hope they don’t break down,” Cormier said wryly. 

In other business, in addition to discussing a revision to the extracurricular activity participation policy for students who are accused of committing crimes, the board had their first reading of new student debt policy. This would require that students reimburse the district for missing or damaged books, computers or purchased hot lunches, or risk having school privileges revoked.

In some cases, the collection of long-standing debts could be referred to the assessors of their parents’ hometown.

Cormier noted that in some cases the district had students owing more than $150 for hot lunches last year. While an option of last resort, the district could use this new policy to force the student’s parents to pay the debt through an addition to the municipal tax.

“We wouldn’t like to do that,” Cormier said, “but a computer is $1,200, a math or science textbook is $60. It does add up.”

The school board will review that policy again next week, and could vote to approve it then.

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