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New London school boiler woes extend beyond quick fix

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day

Published February 05. 2013 4:00AM

New London - A boiler at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, which broke down Jan. 24 leaving students in the cold, has been repaired, but there are long-term problems with the heating system, as well as lapses in communication between school and city officials, according to the City Council.

The council voted unanimously Monday to allow the school department to use about $10,000 in unused funds from a previous appropriation for repairs to the school's heating system to address the latest boiler problems.

"There's enough blame to go around, from parents to the board to the school administration to the city,'' said Mongi Dhaouadi, a member of the New London Parent Advocates. "In my opinion we all allowed this to happen. We left 600 kids in that building without heat, and that's not acceptable."

When the boiler failed, those in the school department pointed to a lack of funding from the city as the cause of the failure.

But several councilors disputed that Monday night. Late last year, the council appropriated $65,000 for repairs to the boilers at the middle school.

"It's like an onion,'' said Councilor Adam Sprecace. "The more you peel away, the more you learn."

Although the two boilers are only two years old, they were installed into an old circulatory system that is rife with problems, such as leaking pipes and corroded parts. Also a plan, designed to keep the water circulating through the closed system, was never implemented.

When the second boiler ran out of water and stopped working, an alarm that alerts maintenance to problems never sounded because it had never been hooked up.

"Why something as simple as that was not done is not clear,'' said Councilor Anthony Nolan. "Hopefully these kinds of things won't happen again, and the school will not have to be baby-sat by the council."

On Monday, Diana McNeil of the Capital Region Education Council, which is overseeing two other school building projects, told the council that there was a savings of $10,000 from earlier work because a boiler component did not have to be replaced.

About $4,000 was used to fix the failed boiler, and the rest will be used to explore the tunnels where the pipes are located, rewire the alarm system and make a general assessment of the system, she said.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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