Burlington Town Meeting Passes Mt. Hope Boiler Warrant Article
Heading into Town Meeting as one of the priciest warrant articles, the
financial article pertaining to the repair and replacement of the
heating boilers at the Mount Hope Christian Center School ended up being
amended down to $90,000 after a strong show of support from the members
warrant article called for a transfer of $500,000 from the town’s
stabilization fund to support the repair, design plans, and complete
replacement of the aging heating system at the old Meadowbrook
Elementary School located off Lexington Street, which is now the Mount
Hope Christian Center School.
After much deliberation, Town Meeting decided
they were not comfortable with the original funding request, due to the
large sum of money being allocated to what many members viewed as an
“unclear” plan at this point.
The town of Burlington has a lease with the
former elementary school so maintenance of the main building, roof, and
heating system is the town’s responsibility, while the rest of the
maintenance components fall under the school’s responsibility.
Town Administrator John Petrin has stressed all
along that the furnace system at the school has “failed” as the gas
boilers are as old as the building. With the building constructed in
1959, the boilers are 55 years old and typically have a useful life of
35 to 40 years. All the components of the large project, including
repairing the boilers, putting together design plans, and eventually
replacing the entire heating system, was estimated to cost $500,000.
Petrin told the members that a temporary repair
to at least one of the furnaces has to happen now so the school has heat
for the upcoming cold weather months.
“We need to do a minor repair to get us through
the winter and once winter is over, a design will go out for the bidding
process,” he explained. “Then the plan is to replace the entire heating
system during the warm weather months of next year.”
It was noted that Mount Hope leases the building
from the town for $100,000 a year, and it is a lease that expires in
2030 with a 10-year extension already in the works.
Petrin declared the building to be in “great shape” except for the heating system.
“It is not an issue of maintenance, just an issue
of age,” said Petrin, noting new boilers will provide a more efficient
heating system. “The heating system is currently very inefficient, but
the new heating system will cut energy costs.”
Concerns of Town Meeting
Precinct 4 Town Meeting member Steven Stamm
talked about the mechanical engineer’s report that stated the boiler
walls and water was not inspected, but revealed the boilers had been
inspected by the state in June and approved, which caused him to
recommend an amendment to the original warrant article. He called for
the same original warrant article but recommended replacing the $500,000
funding request with $50,000.
“The main problem is the fire brick (ceramic
material used in lining furnaces) which is the initial repair that needs
to take place,” explained Stamm. “The purpose of this amendment is to
take a deep breath, look at all the alternatives, and not do anything in
a hurried fashion.”
Precinct 5 Town Meeting member Norman Steeves
stated he went to see the boilers at the school and saw no leaks or
superficial issues. He reiterated that both boilers passed state
inspection without comments, enforcing his stance that the $500,000
request was a “little premature.”
After digging into all the backup information for
this warrant article, Steeves said it was the insurance provider for
the Mount Hope School that was spearheading the large funding request.
Precinct 6 Town Meeting member Thomas Killilea
further elaborated on Steeves’ comments regarding the insurance provider
forcing the town’s hand on this funding request.
“The state inspection was in June (the boilers
passed) and then a couple months later, it fails inspection after the
insurance representative inspected the boilers,” he said, reiterating
the boilers essentially need to be replaced for insurance purposes.
Department of Public Work Director John Sanchez
retorted the comments from members. He said the report from the school
strictly called for the boilers to be repaired, not replaced.
“The request to replace them came from the town,”
said Sanchez, who then questioned the members’ will to spend more money
on the aging boilers that have outlived their useful life by 15 years.
“The boilers are 55 years old and the lease expires on the building in
16 years, so the boilers will be 70 years at old at that point if we
keep them until then.”
He stressed that the request from Mount Hope was
to repair the boilers. Sanchez brought up the fact that the current
boilers are running at 60 to 70 percent efficiency, while new boilers
would run at 95 percent, which means that less fuel would be used, money
would be saved, and it would be better for the environment. As for the
state inspection, he affirmed it is essentially a “pressure inspection”
as they don’t inspect inside the boilers to really see what is going on
Town Administrator Petrin concluded by speaking to the approach the town is taking on this matter.
“We are looking at this as a situation with a
building containing 250 students. It is a major institution in town and
we need to maintain it,” he said.
With many of the members still skeptical of
approving $500,000 for this initiative, they compromised and amended
member Steeves’ amendment that changes the funding request to $90,000
for repairing the boilers, funding the engineering design plans and
specifications, all in an effort to provide Town Meeting with a full
report when they meet again in January.
Sanchez informed them that $90,000 will certainly
cover the repair of one boiler, but he wasn’t sure if it would be
enough for the other boiler. The school only needs one boiler to provide
enough heat for the building, as the second boiler provides as a
backup. Sanchez affirmed if Town Meeting approves the rest of the
funding in January, all of the plans and bids will be ready to go so the
new boilers and complete heating system will be installed by the start
of school next September.
Town Meeting firmly approved the amendment
calling for $90,000 instead of $500,000 by a vote of 86-7. At least one
boiler will be repaired in the coming weeks so there is heat for the
school this year. Expect the remaining aspects of the initiative to be
concluded at Town Meeting in January.
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