Schools say boiler need imminent
By Jason Stuart
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
Glendive Public Schools officials are planning to run another bond issue in about two years time to try and build a new school and take care of other major repairs in the district’s aging buildings, but district administrators are concerned that the heating system boilers in two of the district’s elementary schools may not make it that long.
The current state and deteriorating condition of the boilers at Lincoln Elementary School and Washington Middle School took up much of the discussion at Monday night’s meeting of the Glendive Unified School Board’s Facilities Committee, with Superintendent Stephen Schreibeis and both building principals expressing their fears that the district is going to have to come up with a plan to possibly replace those boilers before they can put another bond issue before voters.
The boiler at Lincoln is the one presently causing district officials the most concern. Schreibeis noted the school has had “a lot of issues with the boiler” going back to last spring. He noted that even getting someone to come and look at the boiler to make repairs to it presents a challenge.
“There’s only two people that make repairs like this in the entire state of Montana, so that makes things difficult too,” he said.
Schreibeis noted that the district is also currently dealing with a pair of inspectors — one from the state, one from the school district’s insurance carrier — who seem to be in disagreement about the continued viability of Lincoln’s boiler.
“The two inspectors were on the same page and now they really aren’t, and we’re trying to figure out what that means,” Schreibeis said.
What is clear, he said, is that Lincoln’s boiler is in pretty bad condition and will need to be replaced very soon, possibly before the district can even get to the point of running a new bond issue.
“One thing that everyone is in agreement on is we need to have a plan in place to move forward with a new boiler in the near future,” Schreibeis said. “That boiler’s on its last legs, and has been for a long time.”
GUSB trustee Kevin Thompson asked how much a new boiler would cost, but Schreibeis demurred, saying that as a new superintendent who has never dealt with a boiler replacement before, he has no idea how much it would cost to replace one.
Boilers large enough to heat school buildings can cost into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, however, depending on the size of the boiler required. A recent example from Butte might be somewhat instructive. In May, the school district there approved spending an estimated $303,000 to replace four smaller boilers in Butte High School.
The Butte case might also be instructive in that Lincoln isn’t the only school with boiler problems, as WMS Principal Mark Goyette noted that both of the boilers in his building are a constant source of trouble because they are well past the end date of their standard service life.
“The boilers right now are probably the big question mark,” Goyette said. “What I’ve been told is they’re five to seven year boilers, and we’re on 15-plus years with them.”
The Facilities Committee didn’t have any concrete answers for what to do about the boiler issue, other than Schreibeis stressing that they need to come up with some kind of contingency plan to replace at least the Lincoln boiler should it go out before the district can run another bond issue.
Board member Paul Hopfauf did offer one other suggestion — that the district investigate other options for heating the buildings that do not include boilers.
“Maybe there’s other options,” Hopfauf said.
Reach Jason Stuart at email@example.com.