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School Board Considers Boiler Maintenance Contract

By Staff | Apr 28, 2011

Maintenance of the new high-efficiency boiler and heating and cooling system at the high school/middle school complex was a topic of discussion by the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education on Apr. 18.

“I presented this contract last month and the board had a lot of few questions that I couldn’t answer,” stated Superintendent John Joynt. “It involves quite a bit of money, so Jeff Swift is here to talk to you about that.”

Jeff Swift briefly explained the maintenance schedule for the school’s heating and cooling system, which amounted to $13,750 per year with a three-year contract. Most of the cost associated from the contract is attributed to labor. The proposed maintenance contract would include quarterly visits (four times per year).

“How hard would it be to have someone in-house, like one of our custodians, do the maintenance?” asked Board President Karla Anderson.

“It would take quite a bit of training and schooling,” Swift answered, adding that if Swift Air was awarded the contract, their employees would need to attend training in New York to care for the district’s heating and cooling system, as well. “Someone from the school could certainly change the filters, though.”

Swift explained that the new system’s high-efficiency heat exchangers are much more tempermental than the previous system and need to be flushed out on a regular basis to prevent cracks which would result in the need for replacement.

“You really have to babysit this system a lot more,” said Swift.

“How many man hours are we talking for each visit?” asked Tammy Naig, board member.

“It’s usually two guys working here for a couple days in the spring and fall. In the summer, it would be longer since they have to clean the coils,” Swift answered.

Board member Don Hagen wondered if Swift Air would provide school administration with a checklist of work completed.

“What happens if one of these parts goes out? Do we pay for getting a new one or is it part of your guarantee while doing the inspections?” asked Hagen.

“There’s no guarantee. Of course, we’re liable if we didn’t check what we said we going to in the agreement. The chances of that happening with us doing the proper maintenance are pretty minimal,” Swift said. “We could do a checklist in addition to the service report we normally provide.”

“Well, it’s apparent that we have a very sophisticated system,” Anderson concluded. “We’ve put a lot of money into this unit and now our choice is do we try to let our maintenance team take care of it or are we willing to take extra steps and hire professionals?”

“I think we want someone who knows what they’re doing,” said Laure Egland, member of the board. “I don’t know if our maintenance people have the time to do this and go to training.”

“I think this specialized training costs a lot, too,” added Board Member Steve Pelzer.

Naig asked if the yearly maintenance price could go up each year.

“It could,” said Swift. “In the past, we’ve had customers a distance away that we had to add gas surcharges with higher gas prices. But we’ve got contracts out there that we haven’t increased in ten years.”

Laure Egland, board member, asked, “What’s your hourly charge for after hours service?”

“Right now, $87.50 is our hourly rate. If we come out in the middle of the night, it would be time and a half for overtime,” said Swift. “We’re basing the contract on normal working hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you want me to try and lock in this number [$13,750/year] for three years, I could do that.”

Joynt noted that Jeff Swift has been good to work with and that Swift Air supplies the school with the filters they need for their system.

“I think the question is do we want to do a maintenance agreement with Jeff and lock in our dollars or do we want to go to an hourly rate? I don’t think there’s $2,000 or $3,000 a year difference between the two,” said Hagen. “It’s going to cost, no matter what we do.”

With no further discussion, the issue was tabled until the May meeting.

In other business, the board held a public hearing regarding the continuance of the Instructional Support Levy Program.

“I recommend that you approve this resolution,” said Joynt. “The Instructional Support Levy is for five years and is a combination of surtax, property tax, and state aid. It was designed to increase our budget by ten-percent, but the state aid has never been enough to do that.”

With no public comment, the board members decided to proceed with the resolution to continue participation in the Instructional Support Program.

The resignation of Dorothy Gilman from her food service position was approved. The board extended their appreciation for Gilman’s 28 years of service to the district.

The board also approved Valerie Pickett as the cross-country head coach, and offered a contract to Catie Ehlert as the school nurse for the 2011-2012 school year.

“Catie has been a great paraeducator for the past few years at the middle school,” said Joynt. “She is a registered nurse, as well, and will become a full-time nurse for the district.”

Sharing agreements with other school districts were also approved for the 2011-2012 school year, including an agreement to share tennis with Estherville-Lincoln Central; an agreement to share swimming and diving with Algona, Estherville-Lincoln Central, and Bishop Garrigan; and an agreement to share soccer with Spencer. The soccer sharing agreement was approved with the stipulation that if the action moves the Spencer school district to a 3A school, there will be no agreement.

The calendar for the 2011-2012 school year was approved, as well. The first day of school will be Aug. 24, 2011, and the last day of school is scheduled for May 18, 2012. The lst day may change depending on the number of snow days.