Voters OK bond for Leland & Gray boiler

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TOWNSHEND — The West River Education District anticipates significant savings on rebuilding an aging boiler at Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School after voters allowed it to change the financial instrument used to borrow money to a bond.

Superintendent Bill Anton said Tuesday's vote had been 124-36. It included voters in Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane, Townshend and Windham.

In March, an article to borrow up to $450,000 for the project passed in a 249-104 vote. When the board started to look into financing, its members discovered the district could save about $25,000 in interest by taking out a bond rather a commercial loan, or about $22,000 when subtracting the cost to warn the vote.

The project is set to see additional savings. The school district received a formal commitment letter from Windham Wood Heat Initiative for a grant to purchase "an advanced wood heat system," said Windham Central Business Manager Laurie Garland.

The grant will cover 35 percent of the total system or up to $150,000. The project also will receive support from Efficiency Vermont, which offers advice, technical services and financial support to energy-related projects. Garland anticipates the overall assistance could total up to $200,000.

The district will stay with the five-year period for paying back the borrowed funds as previously proposed. School Board Chairman Joe Winrich described the vote to change the financial instrument as "the responsible thing to do with the taxpayers' money."

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Ed McGrath, maintenance supervisor at the school, and Chris Medina, director of operations for Windham Central Supervisory Union, are working together on the project. The purpose is to cut down on the number of repairs.

McGrath said the boiler is 26 years old and several parts have been replaced over the years.

"It can be rebuilt and saved," he said. "The entire fuel supply system will be replaced, getting rid of those issues with augers. We'll be adding dust bags to improve the overall emissions of the machine to make it more efficient and cleaner burning."

Medina said since the vote was approved, a request for proposals will be revised with help from an engineer. McGrath expects the RFP to be issued within the next two weeks.

"For me, the machine has been part of my life. It's a machine that should be saved or restored," McGrath said. "This is American ingenuity at its best and it deserves to be done."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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