PARIS — Interim Town Manager Sawin Millet is cautiously optimistic a temporary solution has been found to heat the Mildred M. Fox School after the boiler went down over the weekend.
The pellet boiler at the three-story brick building school at 10 E. Main St. in Paris hasn’t worked properly since Sunday night, he said. The town took ownership of the school in July from SAD 17 and the building has been home to Oxford Hills Christian Academy since 2008. Academy Administrator Steve Holbrook had to cancel classes Monday and Tuesday because of lack of heat in the building, Millet said.
“Steve Holbrook – he’s been great to work with. He’s worked out a temporary arrangement with the [South Paris] Baptist Church on [Route] 26 next to South Paris Post Office,” he said, adding the agreement could be extended further while the school’s heating woes are figured out. “We’ve avoided the … worst case scenarios: No place for the kids and freeze up of the building.”
There’s been a maintenance worker, along with volunteers, working in the building day and night trying to find a solution for the building’s heat. Space heaters were used to keep the pipes from freezing. The boiler has had heating issues in the past that recently became worse.
“It hasn’t been functioning well for a couple of weeks now and we’ve been struggling on a day-to-day basis to keep the pellets coming in and the heat going up into the building,” Millet said. He explained the grate system that moves the pellets into the ignite system and later moves burned pellets has corroded, causing a jam.
Heating specialists were able to get the school’s original 1965 American Standard boiler, which uses oil, up and running. The downed pellet boiler wasn’t immediately fixed because the town does not own the unit.
“We are optimistic this may be the temporary solution to avoiding problems in the building,” Millet said, noting carbon monoxide levels and the original boiler will be monitored. “For the time being, it’s starting to heat the building.”
SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts said the school board unanimously agreed to donate a surplus boiler from Oxford Elementary School to the town of Paris to heat the Fox School at its meeting Monday night. Millet explored this option, while he isn’t nixing it, he said the unit is kind of big for the boiler room and needs some parts.
Colpitts explained when the steam boiler in the Fox School died roughly three years ago when the district still owned the building, instead of paying between $70,000 and $100,000 to replace the unit and bring the boiler room, chimney and oil tanks up to code, the district went with a new heating method – purchasing BTUs. Since June 2013, the district, and later the town, purchased energy for the boiler, but did not own the unit.
Other options the town is exploring include getting cost estimates to repair the boiler, which Millet said should be in by the end of this week, and securing an external rental unit and piping the heat into the building. The latter proved to be too expensive, as it would cost roughly $30,000 to get through the heating season with this method, he said.
In November, Paris Selectmen unanimously rejected an offer to purchase the pellet boiler for $7,500 from Clean Fleet Investors LLC after then-Town Manager Amy Bernard warned of maintenance issues with the unit over the past two winters.