As more questions arose about projected costs of as much as $13 million and various proposed options for updating the heating system at Quincy Jr./Sr. High School during last week’s school board meeting, trustees for the Plumas Unified School District’s Governing Board decided to defer a vote on moving ahead with the project.
School Board President Leslie Edlund and trustees Joleen Cline, Dave Keller and Traci Holt, clerk of the Board, met Feb. 12 at the renovated historic Quincy Schoolhouse to hear updated information about the QJSHS boiler project and other Measure B-funded school improvements.
Trustee Dwight Pierson was unable to attend that night and the board found itself in consensus to schedule a new special meeting (soon to be determined) at which they anticipate resolving their inquiries.
In addition, they expressed a desire to take another look at the district’s remaining Measure B projects and factor in new cost estimates that may impact those facility needs. No dates were set for the discussions at this time.
Issues and more information
To date, the trustees have considered a number of issues about the imperative project designed to replace and modernize Quincy High’s heating system, which dates back approximately 60 years.
They have been conducting research on solutions and have heard pros and cons for various options, including installing either a propane-fired boiler, or that and a biomass-fired boiler that would net the district lower costs over time.
At the meeting, PUSD Superintendent Terry Oestreich advised the board that the district’s contractor expressed a preference for propane-fired boilers. She had also spoken with a Sierra Pacific Industries representative about the effectiveness of biomass boiler systems and learned they work well but are not necessarily PUSD’s best option because “when you want heat and turn it on, it’s not preferred to (have to) fire up a biomass boiler.” SPI’s biomass system is quite large and a different matter, plus these systems require a lot of maintenance, Oestreich was told.
The superintendent also checked with another colleague who installed a biomass boiler system at their location and her contact said they are happy with the system now. However, he acknowledged the first year of operation “was challenging” because of moisture content problems and though it doesn’t necessarily require a full-time employee to run something like this, the biomass boiler system would have to be monitored regularly.
Pipes, facilities and the DSA
The school board trustees were in agreement that they had more questions than answers that night.
Two other issues focused on potential needs to either renovate the existing facility building that houses Quincy High’s current heating system (or build a new one for potentially the same or less money) and the likely possibility that the system’s piping might have to be dug up and replaced because it is old, too.
The new system probably could not be guaranteed to operate well if problems arose with the old pipes. Changing the pipes means digging them up.
And qualifying for several million dollars in “hardship funding” to help offset the project’s overall cost requires the district to meet Department of State Architect (DSA) requirements either way — through new construction or remodeling the building to meet today’s DSA standards.
It’s the proverbial rock and a hard place and there may not be easy or low-cost options. However, encountering costly lead, mold and/or asbestos problems in a school renovation or repair project can favorably impact qualifying for hardship funds.
Trustee questions, concerns
“This is a significant project and we have to have all the information,” said Trustee Leslie Edlund.
Her fellow school board members agreed.
“With the timing and all that we have learned, we also need to put this way up in priority,” said Trustee Joleen Cline. “What could this potentially lead to if we have to go into the piping? And we could be talking about a whole-school rehabilitation.”
Trustee Traci Holt said, “We might as well look at our eligibility for modernization (funding), if we’re even eligible.”
The board exchanged comments about possibly extending the project out to buy more time, needing more cost information and further details about PUSD’s potential eligibility for funding assistance.
The trustees also looked at the situation pragmatically, considering that sometimes it’s best to just do all that’s needed up front, at the same time, rather than piecemeal and they knew they wanted to meet again to discuss the project in further detail.
Superintendent Oestreich offered a comment, saying, “We know it’s an old system and you don’t want to put new boilers with that old piping.”
PUSD will announce the date of the special meeting, which was not available as of press time. For more information, call 283-6500.
Approved Measure B projects
There were six other Measure-B bond-funded projects the school board members also discussed and found they were able to approve with a 4-0 vote.
– C. Roy Carmichael Elementary: $8,756 to Sign Solutions for signage.
– Feather River Middle School: $29,859 to Asbestos Science Technologies for demolition monitoring per code and regulations.
– Taylorsville, Quincy High and Portola High: $15,750 to Pace Engineering for additional electrical services needs.
– Chester Elementary, Pioneer School, Quincy Elementary and Quincy Junior-Senior High: $2,200 to Branch Electric for electrical reconnaissance (diagnostic) work related to electrical upgrades.
– Portola Junior-Senior High: $15,500 to Humboldt Fence for a new baseball field backstop.
– Portola Junior-Senior High: $7,960 to Dig It Construction for base rock as part of the ADA parking area and paving project.