Board hopes Austin boiler will keep working

The boiler system at Vermillion�s Austin Elementary School is ready to be replaced, but school officials hope it will last at least until the end of the snowy season.

�We don�t want to be in a situation where in the middle of winter where we could have a major shutdown and not be able to hold school there for a lengthy period of time,� said Superintendent Mark Froke. �That�s something that the board is very concerned about, but is not beyond a possibility based on the condition of this current system.�

Approximately 50 years old, the system has been subject to ongoing repair work � a situation that can not last, Froke said.

�Certain areas will shut down. It will leak, and we�ll have to come in and fix the leaks, because over time the pipes and the boiler have corroded,� he said. �It�s all original equipment with the building, so it�s over the decades the system has just deteriorated to the point where there�s no more fix to it. We just need to take a look at the best option for replacement.�

The option the district is now researching is to replace the school�s back-up boiler and downgrade its current primary boiler.

�The primary boiler that�s in Austin currently works well, and when we replace the back-up boiler, then the new boiler would become the primary boiler and the current boiler will become the back-up,� Froke said.

The system also will be converted from steam to hot water, �which is more efficient, as well,� he added.

The potential cost of removing and installing the boilers, as well as replacing the piping throughout the building, is $450,000, which will be provided for by the school�s capital outlay fund.

Bob Devine of Johnson Control addressed the school�s boiler issues at a recent school board meeting, although no action was taken.

�A final decision has not been reached at this time as far as accepting anything, but we�re going to move forward to the next step,� Froke said. �Our plans are drawn up and the board will determine at that time when they see the plans and maybe some quotations whether or not to move forward.

�But it�s obvious that something needs to be done, because we�re having many problems with the heating system there and we have a responsibility to provide for the basic needs of the children and staff,� he said.

When the board does move forward, bids for the project will be taken, with work to be completed over the summer, Froke said.

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