About $8,900 will go toward immediate boiler repairs at the Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School after a City Council vote on Monday.
The Council unanimously approved the funds for four areas that were determined to be part of a Jan. 24 boiler failure. These included $4,150 to replace failed boiler feed pumps, $3,366.40 to complete tunnel exploration to determine the extent of leaks in the system, $805 to rewire an auto dialer, and $600 for a general assessment on problems with the boiler system.
The problem when one of the two boilers at BDJMS shut down overnight. The second boiler was under repair and not functional at the time. Custodians at the school worked to bring the boiler back online, but some classes were relocated after the breakdown due to low temperatures in some parts of the building.
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Diana McNeil, a project manager with the Capitol Region Education Council, told the Finance Committe that most of the first phase portions of the BDJMS boiler repairs have been completed. McNeil, who is overseeing the Jennings School and Winthrop School projects and assisting with the BDJMS repairs, said the second phase items approved by the council are considered emergency measures.
McNeil said future costs will include asbestos removal and leak repair to follow the tunnel exploration, with those costs to be determined. She said the assessment will help get an idea of any other issues with the boiler system.
“We’ve been sort of reactionary to these problems,” said McNeil. “We don’t really know the extent of the problems that are going on.”
The boiler problem brought some criticism of the level of communication between municipal officials and New London Public Schools. Mirna Martinez, a member of New London Parent Advocates, said Public Works Director Tim Hanser was not informed about the issue until 4 p.m. on the day of the boiler breakdown. Mongi Dhaouadi, another member of the group, said there has been a lack of leadership on building maintenance.
“We need to revisit and look at this system that’s now in place, with the school system on one side and the city on the other,” said Dhaouadi.
Council President Michael Passero said he felt city officials are only informed about maintenance issues if there is a problem. He said there was also a lack of information in first addressing the issue.
“There are some serious communications issues between the maintenance staff—such as it is—in the schools and the maintenance staff—such as it is—in the city,” said Passero.
Councilor Anthony Nolan said people involved in the boiler repair effort should be held accountable for the problem.
“There is no excuse for why our children should be cold for almost half a day,” he said.
Councilors Adam Sprecace and John Maynard criticized the repair process. Sprecace said the city approved funding for the boiler repair two years ago and that it did not include funds for the boiler feed pumps that were determined to be at fault in the boiler shutdown. He said funds were available from the first phase of repairs because the request also included funding for some items, such as a replacement of mud drums, that were found to be unnecessary.
Maynard, an operating engineer at Foxwoods Resort Casino, said he thought a more comprehensive repair process should be taking place. He said the current repairs do not address chemistry issues with the boiler system such as pH levels.
“If we do not take care of the chemistry, the boiler’s going to fail again. The pump’s going to fail again,” he said.