By LISA CAPOBIANCO
The town is moving forward with an energy savings program to replace the Middle School of Plainville’s (MSP) boilers—one of which failed unexpectedly earlier this month.
On Oct. 2, the Town Council approved a $580,000 additional appropriation from the unassigned fund balance to participate in the Eversource Energy Opportunities Program with PTE Energy of Plainville.
During the meeting, town officials decided to postpone entering into the program with PTE Energy, since two Council members were absent. The Council was expected to take action on Monday, Oct. 16.
“Appropriating the funds is one step we have to do,” said Town Council Chairperson Kathy Pugliese.
The School Facilities Department has been working with PTE Energy on possible incentive monies to replace MSP’s boiler and to install LED lighting at Plainville High School and Linden Street School, as well as the fire house, library, municipal center, the police station and the senior center.
The project has an estimated total cost of $1,078,152. However, the town could receive a total grant incentive of $389,011 if the boiler is replaced by Dec. 31. If these improvements are made, the town would receive $83,578 in annual energy savings.
This would be a payback of 8.2 years and a “return on investment of over 12 percent.
Town Manager Robert Lee said Eversource will provide funding for incentive grants to work on the boilers and LED lighting, adding that the incentives will not be available next year.
“It is anticipated and expected that there’s going to be a cost savings each year on the operating side,” said Lee. “This project is going to pay for itself within an eight-year period.”
Earlier during the day on Oct. 2, the situation became more urgent when one of the boilers failed at MSP.
“The boilers are past their useful life. They have lasted more than 25 years, and they have been taken very good care of, which is probably why they’ve lasted longer than they have,” said Plainville Supt. of Schools Dr. Maureen Brummett during the Oct. 2 Town Council meeting.
If the second boiler fails, and school is in session during cold temperatures, added Brummett, state law would require school to be cancelled at MSP.
“I cannot run a school without heat,” said Brummett. “We are now living on one boiler. If a boiler does fail, it takes several days to secure a temporary boiler, and that’s optimistic. It may take a week or so.”
During a public hearing that took place before the Council approved the appropriation, some residents brought up the possibility of having an outside contractor look into repairing the boiler.
“You should have some qualified contractors look at that boiler and see what they can do with that,” said Plainville resident John Kisluk.
Plainville resident Joseph Gohar, who has worked as a steam fitter for the past 28 years now, told the council that cracked boilers could be welded.
“They do it all the time,” said Gohar. “It takes about two or three days.”
Plainville Board of Education Chairperson Andrea Saunders said it was only a matter of time when the boiler would fail, and asked the Council to consider approving funds for the replacement.
“We’re at a crossroads here where it needs to be fixed or replaced,” said Saunders.
Last Wednesday, the Board of Education’s facilities subcommittee held a special meeting to discuss the project again and took a tour of MSP to take a look at the failed boiler.
Brummett said an outside contractor took a look at the boiler and determined that it could not be replaced.
“It is not repairable,” said Brummett last week. “We did our due diligence. We had at least one outside agency come in to look at it in addition to all the diagnostic tests we’ve done.”
Once the council approves a contract with PTE for the program, it will take about two weeks for the new boilers to arrive, said Brummett. While new boilers are installed, a temporary boiler would be hooked up to run the heat. For now, school officials hope the other boiler will hold off until the project is completed.
“From start to finish, it’s a good month,” said Brummett.