Costly heating fix needed to keep Western Vance building open

Aug. 15, 2013 @ 07:53 PM

The 93-year-old boiler pipes in Western Vance High School have deteriorated to the point they are not currently usable, facilities director Claiborne Woods said Thursday.

“We could not provide heat in that building today,” he said Thursday afternoon. “We hope we will make it through this heating season but I have already made the superintendent aware in writing that we might not.”

Superintendent Ronald Gregory and the school board’s building and grounds committee will meet Thursday to address Western’s piping problems, which is estimated to cost more than $400,000 to repair.

Ruth Hartness, building and grounds committee chairwoman, said the students at Western would need to relocate if the school’s heating system fails this winter.

“The school board is responsible for seeing that it is a conducive learning environment and a freezing cold classroom is not conducive to learning,” Hartness said.

Woods reported Western’s pipe problems to school board members at the April building and grounds committee meeting.

“At that time, I used the word ‘catastrophic’ because it is,” Woods said. “You just can’t have a school without heat.”

Western’s building dates to the 1920s and the worn-out heating pipes have recently started leaking hot steam, causing the wood floors to warp and sag.

A N.C. Department of Public Instruction engineer’s report found that the classroom radiators have exceeded their life expectancy.

The typical life expectancy of the pipe system is about 40-50 years, but a major portion of Western’s heating system is more than 90 years old, according to the report.

The report estimated the cost of a comprehensive mechanical and electrical renovation at $1,020,000. The estimated cost of converting the steam heat system to a hot water system was $375,000, according to the N.C. DPI engineer’s report.

Woods said an outside engineer’s inspection estimated more than $500,000 for the costs of installing heating and cooling pumps.

But that estimate does not include the costs of determining the structural integrity of the floors to see if they can support the weight of heating and cooling pumps, Woods said.

Emergency repairs on the piping system will start as soon as the weather permits, he says.

“We will definitely need to implement something for the next school year,” he said. “We would be lucky to make it through this year.”


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