Two furnaces are 20 years old. When they need to be replaced, the school will have to remove a concrete wall to get them out. ISLANDER PHOTO BY SARAH HINCKLEY

School’s furnaces are stuck in the building

TREMONT — When the furnace at the elementary school here reaches the end of its useful life, it will require removing a wall to get it out of the school. Officials are saving up for that day.

“The only way to get it out is to go through a wall, a concrete wall to be precise,” Principal Jandrea True explained to selectmen recently during a budget presentation.

Within the boiler room on the rear side of the building are two furnaces, both 20 years old. There is just enough room to work around them between the concrete walls that surround them on two sides with pipes coming out of another and a staircase leading down into the room on the final side. A door, marked by an exit sign, leads from the room into a covered shed to the outside that has a door approximately three feet high.

“It’s not very efficient for a person to go in and out of, let alone a boiler,” said True at the select board meeting.

At the foot of the stairs a door leads from the room into another where four oil tanks sit, holding a total of 1200 gallons between them. During the winter season, the two furnaces burn an average of 12 gallons of oil an hour.

“They barely shut off,” said Bob Williams who has been head of maintenance at the school for six years. “They’re pretty much at the end of their life expectancy.”

Larger maintenance items have been addressed in the last few years with a contingency fund within the school budget. According to True, with the $25,000 added to this fund each year, there will be $100,000 in it at the start of July or fiscal year 2020.

Many of the long-term maintenance items were highlighted in a building assessment report conducted in 2015 by Sealander Architects.

“We know that it’s likely before too long we’re going to see failure issues,” True said this week. “We’re not sure we’ll make it through another year before that happens… Like the septic system last year, these are systems that have lived their life.”

When the school’s septic system unexpectedly failed last year, funds were available to replace the nearly $60,000 system because of pre-planning.

A recent estimate from Doug Gott and Sons for the ground work needed to remove the boilers included a adding a room extension, cutting a larger opening and installing double doors to accommodate moving the bulky equipment in and out of the space.

“We can’t really do the work once the students are here,” said True, since the building construction would take place on the playground.

One of the boilers looks like it has weathered well over the last 20 years, the other looks like it could call it quits at any time. True is crossing her fingers that they will make it through these colder months before needing to be replaced.

When one goes, the school will probably replace both, to avoid going through the arduous process more than once.

“You’re taking a big risk to not replace the other (furnace) when you replace the first,” said True.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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