New use, old boilerWashington School Board will discuss possible bond issue
By David Hotle
Will the taxpayers in the Washington School District vote on a bond referendum to replace the high school boiler in the spring? That is a question the Washington School Board is expected to answer during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Washington High School media center.
Washington Schools Superintendent Mike Jorgensen said that he expects the board to vote on the possibility of having the bond issue on the June ballot. He believes the board will have to decide then in order to have enough time to get it on the June ballot. He said that the board would now have a fourth option to discuss as far as replacing the boiler.
“(Construction director) Dan Culp will be there with information about a system that works like a geothermal system, but is not as expensive as a geothermal system,” Jorgensen said. “I’m aware of one school district that uses it.”
In October, the board learned that the boiler that heats the wing of the new high school that was formerly the junior high barely passed this year’s inspection. Jorgensen said the district was told unless there is a plan to replace it before next year, it would not pass another inspection. He said the boiler, which is the original in the junior high, runs at about 40 percent efficiency, is rusting out along the bottom, and leaks.
He also said that he believes the board will want to replace the doors, windows and ceiling in the building to maximize savings from the new system.
Jorgensen said that the high school construction used all the money the board was allowed to borrow, which didn’t allow for the boiler to be replaced as the new high school was being built. He also said he knew the boiler would have to be replaced at some point, but thought that it would be a few more years until the replacement was required.
Without the information Culp is going to provide, the board has three options, Jorgensen said. The first is to replace the boiler with new high-efficiency boilers, which is expected to cost about $1 million. The board can also opt to install a geothermal system using the existing field, which is expected to cost about $2 million. A geothermal system with a new field would cost about $2.5 million.
Jorgensen said he would recommend the board seek a bond issue to purchase a new boiler.
“It has to be done,” he said.
He said if the bond issue fails, the district will have to do the repair anyway, but would have to cut something out of the budget in order to fund the new boiler. He believes that the district would have to fall a year behind in the purchase of new buses ,and he also feels the district’s technology program would suffer as a result.
Jorgensen said that because the board hasn’t approved anything yet, he hasn’t discussed the possibility of having a steering committee.