Although not a headliner until recently, the old boiler was not a well-kept secret to anyone
By Lynda Jensen
News stories, columns and committee reports going back to 2003 have reported ongoing problems with heating and ventilation at the former high school for Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted; now known as the middle school, for quite some time.
The old boiler responsible for heating the former high school started service Oct. 1, 1930, and has been reported as being a problem in relation to heating and ventilation issues in the newspaper nearly every year for the past five years.
In 2005-06, it was also an issue tracked by the facilities committee at that time which was composed of 33 people from the community as well as school officials being identified in the committee’s recommendations in June of 2005.
Last year, a study by ESG reported in the newspaper June 11, 2007, specifically spelled out problems with this issue:
“Jerry Halloran of ESG explained that the study concluded that the Howard Lake site’s heating and ventilation equipment will require a significant amount of upgrading due to its age and not meeting today’s standards for ventilation as required by the Minnesota Department of Education.
The study reported that old boilers are no longer reliable and ventilation systems that are in disrepair and do not provide adequate ventilation to classroom spaces were the primary concerns as many of these systems are now over 50 years old,” Halloran noted.”
The story continues to detail different options the board was looking at, with the board’s decision to wait for repairs.
”Although the board unanimously agreed that the school at some point needs a new boiler and ventilation system, at this point, the board needs to focus on the current issues and projects at hand, including building projects and upcoming operating levy election.
‘The operating levy is first and foremost,’ Board Member Al Doering noted.
Subsequently, this year, the reporting continued about the heating and ventilation issues, with little public reaction until it was written in headlines, and placed on a ballot in the form of a referendum by the district.
The problem was first reported five years ago
The issue started to surface in September of 2003, when Supt. George Ladd wrote a column in the newspaper:
Under a subheading “Why do we need a building program?” Ladd stipulated the following bullet point about the former high school, writing “Heating and ventilation systems are outdated, resulting in air quality that does not meet current code requirements. Windows and doors are old and not energy efficient, and handicapped accessibility improvements are needed.”
He continued “The cost of operating, maintaining and repairing aging buildings continues to increase.”
In the following week, Ladd referred to “modern heating, ventilation and electrical systems” as an asset for a new school.
The following year, a report was presented to 33 people July 13, 2004, who were members of the Facility Planning Committee, at that time.
According to the report “There were several deficiencies relative to accessibility, building code and deferred maintenance noted.”
Deferred maintenance is a reference to ongoing maintenance issues that pertain to heating and ventilation, amongst other things.
Further, it was noted under a “new high school proposal” heading that the district should “Close and demolish the Howard Lake school except for the 1976 portion to be used as a Community Center facility containing the gym, locker rooms and offices, classrooms for school/community use,” according to Jim Wilson of Smiley Glotter Nyberg Architects, who conducted an analysis of the existing facility.
Members who were present at the meeting include the following people: Bob Scherman, Jack Littfin, David Sherman, Mary Schlief, Brett Schlief, Lori Custer, Mark Custer, Bob Bakeberg, Mike Ollig, Ladd, Marylou Swedberg, Daryll Ostenberg, Charlie Weber, Don Stevenson, Viv Mahlstedt, Al Moy, Louise Hohag, Warner Hohag, Dan Judd, John Lideen, Laurie Lideen, Al Doering, Dede Doering, Sheila Asleson, Beth Horn, Becky Gerdes, Denise Merritt, Rob Merritt, Trudy Berg, Tom Hammer, Dan Schaible, Dale Engel, and Gerry Smith.
In 2005, the progress of the facility committee was tracked through the year and heating/ventilation issues were noted at that time.
One such news story June 24, 2005, reported the recommendations given by the Facility Committee, while tracking the progress of a fall ballot, with the following comments at the beginning of the article.
“The middle school would remain where it is with an allowance for deferred maintenance,” (this was the third item bulleted under a recommendation given by the facility committee).
Further, the article reports “Possible future phases could include an addition at the high school for the middle school and demolition, additions and remodeling to convert Howard Lake building to an elementary school.”
The following is a lengthy excerpt from a school board story printed June 11, 2007:
“Jerry Halloran of ESG explained that the study concluded that the Howard Lake site’s heating and ventilating equipment will require a significant amount of upgrading due to its age and not meeting today’s standards for ventilation as required by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).
“The study reported that old boilers that are no longer reliable and ventilating systems that are in disrepair and do not provide adequate ventilation to classroom spaces were the primary concerns as many of these systems are now over 50 years old. The average life of this equipment is 25 or 30 years old, Halloran noted.
“The district’s facilities committee consisting of board members, administration and district facility staff, worked with ESG to narrow the recommendations down to two choices: one scenario would only capture the potential savings but would not address any of the pending capital replacement and facility upgrade needs, Halloran explained.
“The second scenario is a long-ranged plan based on life cycle costs as well as the educational needs of the facilities.
“This scenario includes the repair, refurbishing or replacement (as necessary) of the identified facility measures. This would include replacing the old steam boilers, replacing and/or upgrading ventilation systems, upgrading lighting and control systems.
“Halloran also explained that equally important in this study was the creation of a funding solution that would not take any money from the classroom or have any negative impact on the taxpayer.
The first scenario would use the energy savings to pay for the upgrades, virtually self-funding, which equates to no levy impact or tax impact. Board and facilities committee member Tom Hammer noted that this is the minimum the district should do.
“The recommended scope of work in the second scenario (repairing, replacing, refurbishing of identified items) is $4.3 million and would be repaid through a combination of rebates, third party financing and the sale of facility bonds that would be paid through the district’s deferred maintenance and health and safety levies.
“The project would require no initial capital contribution and the tax impact would be a zero impact to tax payers, the report noted. The study also noted that the recommended upgrades would generate approximately $66, 500 per year of utility and operational expense reduction.
“Halloran noted that by doing this work in this manner, it would eliminate these items from becoming “budget nightmares” in the future where the district would have to find different funding mechanisms to pay for the work
“After the presentation and discussion, the board decided that scenario one, completing the energy-savings items (not making the capital replacement and facility upgrades) makes a lot of sense at this point.
Although the board unanimously agreed that the school at some point needs a new boiler and ventilation system, at this point, the board needs to focus on the current issues and projects at hand, including building projects and upcoming operating levy election.
“The operating levy is first and foremost,” Doering said noting also that completing the energy savings items identified in scenario one makes sense as the items pay for themselves, and there is no levy impact and no tax impact.
“Another concern the board identified in completing the scope of work recommended in the second scenario at this current point would be maxing out the levies and thereby not leaving levy financing for other projects that may arise in the district.
“Doering recommended waiting a year or so until the operating levy election is over and to also see if there is any contingency money from the building projects available for these facility upgrades and replacements at the Howard Lake site.
“As the need to replace the boiler was the biggest concern identified by the board, ESG noted that a possibility would be to do just complete the boiler work at this time using deferred maintenance dollars, which again would have no tax impact.
“The board agreed to ESG looking at this. At this point, the board decided to take a look at these needs in the near future.
“The facilities committee also identified the need to have some type of maintenance and facilities checklist in order for each school building so the status of these various systems could be checked on in a set manner. The board agreed that this was a good idea.”
Subsequently, reporting continued this year with reports about a plan to replace the boiler by giving the voters a choice to build a new middle school, or to fix the heating problems as they break over time, which amounts to a slow bleed of about $7.1 million, when estimated as an accumulated total.