Friday, March 4, 2016

On A Wing & A Prayer

Wildwood is limping through the winter with only one functional boiler

Yesterday's disclosure by Town/Schools Facilities Director Ron Bonohowicz at the Joint Capital Planning Committee meeting reminded me of those stories you read a generation or two later about how close we came to a major catastrophe and only by shear luck survived.

Three years ago Town Meeting approved spending $400,000 for two new boilers at Wildwood Elementary School that were requiring constant maintenance.  The two boilers were originally installed at time of construction circa 1970.

But the new boilers were never installed because the Mass School Building Authority invited the town to do a $1 million study to help lead to a new or renovated elementary school with 60% state funding.

The town repurposed the $400K boiler expenditure to cover our share of the Wildwood school feasibility study, that has now grown into a $65+ million twin schools under one roof scenario.

Mr. Bohonowicz is requesting $20,000 to repair one of the boilers that is now shut down due to significant problems that has kept it idle all winter.

The dead boiler is somewhat redundant, but was designed to assist the other boiler during a sustained cold stretch, which is certainly not uncommon in New England.

Fortunately the Arctic stretch we had in mid-February that burst pipes all over town occurred over a long weekend when Wildwood only needed minimum heating (55 degrees) rather than operational temperatures (68-72 degrees).

Failure of the second boiler at Wildwood would result in no school for as long as it takes to fix the unit.  And parts are hard to come by.  A complete catastrophic failure would take months to replace.

In the meantime they could bring in a temporary furnace and connect it like a generator, or borrow one of the three heating units at the Middle School.  Although that would require permission of the Regional School Committee.

All of which is disruptive to the education process at Wildwood Elementary School.  So let's hope the town appropriates the $20k in repairs.   And that spring comes early.


Anonymous said...

Or everyone could wear a down vest…. We keep our house cold in the winter - it's no big deal, saves energy and is better for one's health - no reason to close a school because it's 55 inside….

Anonymous said...

I could not stay for all of Ron Bohonowicz's presentation to JCPC yesterday, but it was very impressive. He has tremendous command over all the facilities in town, and what is needed at each one. He understands the various strategies to get funding assistance to the town from the state for various capital items, like electric buses, for example.

I know that it cuts against the general level of cynicism rampant among the anonymous commenters on this blog, but we are fortunate to have such a nimble and knowledgeable person looking out for the infrastructure in town. I don't know the exact figures, but I suspect he is worth what we are paying him.

Rich Morse

Larry Kelley said...

Not nearly as much as we pay Maria.

Anonymous said...

Could someone tell me the yearly total expenditure on Dash? What do we pay per year to have Dash as a member of our community? Food, housing, clothes, training?

I'd ask the Chief but he is really inaccessible for questions.

The superintendent, on the other hand, I can walk up to her wide open ground floor window, where she's sitting with her back to it, tap on the window glass and say "Could I set up an appointment to speak with you?" I'm saying people do that, not that it's encouraged. I haven't a clue where the Chief's office is. And they make it intimidating rather than welcoming to walk in and ask for anything at the station.

And that is if I can't make it to any of the weekly live telecasts where people can ask questions or make any comment they please of or at the superintendent, which has been going on most weeks for years now, or if another staff member can't reach her (never happens) through the communication system the town set up for her and the department: a $37 a month smartphone allowance.

Accessibility and presence comes with a price. Maybe if we let the next superintendent hide behind walls most days of the year, and not have to answer anyone's questions, give him all the work clothes he needs, a truck rather than a leased Volkswagen Jetta at his own complete expense to get around town and to business meetings, and to use to get to work on some of the most dangerous of snow days before plowing, and lots more, he'd consider taking less.

And I have no idea whether the Chief can handle questions and comments weekly for many years on live television, or if it would cause him to quit from stress, so in my mind he is FAR from bravest, which is the quality some people look for in a leader in this town.

If you ask me, right now, Maria is this town's leader.

Larry Kelley said...

Okay Kurt, whatever you say.

Or as my teen aged daughter would say more succinctly, "whatever."

Anonymous said...

Geez, why doesn't someone with a 4-wheel drive truck offer to drive her into work on really bad weather days? A Jetta isn't a good snow and ice vehicle.