A proposal to turn off the furnace at a little-used former school is generating plenty of heat at City Hall.
At a time when city officials are scrambling to find ways to hang on to taxpayers’ cash, one source of savings could be to turn off the boiler at the 165 Hill St. building that’s only used for a little storage.
Fire Chief Jon Pose, whose department controls the old South Chippens School, said there’s no reason to leave the heat on. He said it costs almost $10,000 a year to keep the place heated to 50 degrees during cold weather.
But Public Works Director Walter Veselka said that turning off the heat would cause so much damage to occur that future repairs would far exceed the cost of maintaining it now – if the 73-year-old building could be used at all.
City councilors urged the Board of Finance to come up with the money to keep the heat on this winter. The only dissenter was city Councilor Ken Cockayne, who said that leaving the furnace off for a couple of years wouldn’t harm the building.
Finance board members said last winter they were deeply skeptical of the need to heat the building, which is next door to Engine 2. They did not include any money in the budget to cover the tab.
City Councilor Cliff Block said he has a house in Vermont that he leaves without heat every winter after draining its pipes. He said it’s been fine for 20 years.
But Veselka said the old school has a “very moist” basement and the plaster walls would deteriorate quickly if the air is too frigid.
Pose said the walls are already in bad shape and he doesn’t think they’d worsen much.
He said the city should use the building only for cold storage. Someday, he said, the structure may be torn down to make way for a renovation of the neighboring firehouse.
Minor said that if the city isn’t going to turn on the heat, it should demolish the building or lease it out.
Pose said that if the city rents it out, the lease should be short-term so that it won’t get in the way of any firehouse project down the line.
The structure has been vacant since the nonprofit CW Resources moved out a year and a half ago for new quarters on Broad Street. It had been paying $1 a year to use the building since 1974.
The site has been used as a school since 1755, when a one-room school was put up there. After a fire destroyed an early building, the existing one was erected in 1936. It remained open until about 1970, officials said.
The property is assessed for nearly $500,000.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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