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Replacement of boilers at elementary and high schools recommended by committee in Benson School District

BENSON -- Benson School District will look into options to replace boilers in its elementary and high schools.

Superintendent Lee Westrum said Wednesday the district's Building and Grounds Committee recommended during Tuesday's School Board meeting that the district examine options for replacing the antiquated boilers of the elementary school and high school.

Westrum said the committee proposed three replacement options to the School Board: new steam boilers, a hot water boiler system and an electrical heating system.

The installation of new steam boilers, at a cost of up to $800,000, would be the least expensive option, Westrum said.

A hot water boiler system could cost the district as much as $3 million Westrum said. The different system would require new piping for both buildings, Westrum said.

Engineers estimate the district could see a 35 percent savings on its energy bill with a hot water system, Westrum said. However, those savings would "probably not be enough to make up the cost difference" between hot water and steam, he added.

Westrum said the committee suggested the district investigate a replacement plan before the administration is forced to pay for larger scale repairs to the old boilers.

"Our main concern is that we would have a major problem with something and we'd end up putting a lot of money into something old just to get us through the winter," Westrum said.

The current steam boilers were installed in 1958 at the elementary school and in 1964 at the high school, Westrum said. Both have been repaired numerous times and are operational, however, Westrum said "they're simply at the end of their useful life."

The School Board discussed the electric heat option minimally on Tuesday, Westrum said. The district will continue to weigh its options, he said.

In other business, the committee recommended the district make improvements to the high school swimming pool. Westrum said the pool's drains are corroded and need to be replaced, along with the pipe connections to them. The improvement plans also include minor upgrades, such as proper depth markers and deck drainage, to get the facility up to current codes, Westrum said.

The district is moving forward on the recommendation to have the improvements completed by the end of the winter. Westrum said the district will contact U.S. Aquatics for designing an improvement plan.