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Officials hoping Deer Meadow roof problems in past

Friday, February 10, 2012

There was no foreboding music, no cigars burned down to a nub and certainly not a "man with no name," but the news on building maintenance at Wednesday's Greencastle School Board meeting might as well have been "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."

The board received updates on the Deer Meadow roof, chillers for the middle school and high school and the high school corn boilers.

The good news came on the Deer Meadow roof. After years of leaks and nearly a year of dealing with serious problems to the expansion joints and roof valleys, things are looking better.

Work on the roof was completed in the fall, and this winter's unseasonable rains have provided the new structure with its first test. Superintendent Lori Richmond reported no leaks during the last two rains.

The only ongoing issue with the roof is a settlement with the shingle manufacturer over faulty products. Corporation attorney Bob Rund said the current offer is in excess of $21,000.

While school officials would like to see more compensation, Rund said the amount is unlikely to change. The board has until February 2013 to accept the settlement.

With the roof problems winding down, the bad news came in the form of a project in its early stages.

The board granted permission to advertise for bids for chiller units in the high school and middle school.

Although no money is being spent at this time, administrators estimate that each unit -- essentially an enormous air conditioner -- will cost anywhere from $200,000 to more than $300,000.

Chief Financial Officer Clay Slaughter reported the current systems have been generating high repair bills in recent years. The situation is unlikely to get better, as the equipment is 23 years old.

The school corporation will receive bids in the coming months in hopes of replacing the systems during the summer months.

The ugly came from an alternate heating source the school gambled on a number of years ago. The corn boilers at Greencastle High School appear to have been a failed experiment.

Richmond said administrators will look at the options for the boilers in the coming months. The decision will come down to whether to keep the system and try to utilize it or to sell the boilers, corn bins and elevator.

Maintenance director Dan Green told the Banner Graphic the boilers have been used for one full winter and possibly part of another since being installed in the fall of 2006.

"We spent 2 1/2 years fighting with the state about permits," Green said. "One winter, we bought corn and burned (the boilers). Then we got to looking at our records and realized it was quite expensive for electricity because of the amount of heat trace that's on the piping and the amount of pumps we run to circulate it through our system. We compared that to gas and it wasn't coming out, by the time we bought corn."

The original plan was for the school to receive out-of-date seed corn for free. However, the presence of pesticides and herbicides on the corn made it a no-no with the Department of Environmental Management.

Initially, the school was buying corn for about $3 per bushel, but prices jumped to $7 per bushel when ethanol plants and other factors increased demand.

"We also found that they only burn well when it's below 20 degrees outside," Green said. "When it's above that, they tend to flame out because they are shut down for a length of time and they don't come right back on. They aren't like a boiler where you have a fan and a pilot on them.

"We just shut them off and drained them at that point."

The problems the school encountered are common, and corn as a heating source doesn't look like nearly as good an idea as it did half a decade ago.

It may be time for the corporation to cut its losses.

"At this point, it looks strongly like we will be selling them," Slaughter said. He advised the bins and elevator could be of use to farmers, but the boilers are unlikely to be worth very much.

The school just hopes to find itself with a bit more than "A Fistful of Dollars."

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Shouldn't all these problems with the corn boilers been known upfront with some minimal due dilligence from the school board. Pretty sure that it should have been obvious that you can't burn something with pesticides on them and the costs associated with running pumps should have been easily calculated with some inputs from the manufacturer. Yet another instance where the school boards incompentence ends up wasting taxpayers money.

-- Posted by hometownboy on Fri, Feb 10, 2012, at 11:13 AM

Please list five other instances, just for context. Not being smart-A just curious the other things you have observed and it would let others know the depth of an ongoing problem.

-- Posted by LitNup on Fri, Feb 10, 2012, at 4:47 PM

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