Is new heating system in the works or being delayed?

FILE PHOTO |  A discussion will continue Monday over a referendum to authorize a more than $1 million bond.

The clock is ticking with little time left for the Shelter Island Board of Education to make a decision if it wants to hold a referendum in February to authorize a more than $1 million bond, necessary to replace the school heating system.

The discussion started in November will continue Monday night at a 7 p.m. Board of Education meeting.

Two board members — Linda Eklund and Marilynn Pysher — balked in late November to approving a bond referendum, saying they felt they were being rushed into a decision they weren’t ready to make. Both wanted more information on alternatives before they would throw their support to a bond that could be as high as $1.4 or even $1.6 million.

Their colleagues seemed inclined to favor a bond referendum, but deferred to Ms. Eklund and Ms. Pysher, saying they wanted them to have a comfort level that thought could be achieved with more information.

There was at least one additional meeting in which more information was forthcoming, but no call for a special meeting to act on the bond resolution.

During the week of October 25, the school’s antiquated heating system controls stopped working, requiring that two custodians — Mike Dunning and Greg Sulahian — share the responsibility, working around the clock, of keeping  the building warm. In early November, the board approved $55,000 to pay for new controls that are to be installed this month.

But the controls were only part of the problem, Patrick McClave of Port Jefferson’s McClave Engineering told the board.

The building’s antiquated heating system needed to be replaced at a total cost of $1.6 million, including the $55,000 for the new controls that fit both the existing and new system being proposed.

While the new controls will relieve the need for Mr. Dunning and Mr. Sulahian to come to the school every hour to keep the system running, there’s an overuse of fuel — about 260 gallons a day as compared with the usual 175 gallons. What’s more, even when the system is operating, it’s less efficient than a new system would be, Mr. McClave said. Delaying the work would chance a complete breakdown requiring emergency action, he said.

Superintendent Michael Hynes estimated that it would cost an additional $270,000 in labor and fuel to keep the existing system in place for five years and that figure doesn’t include what would be the escalating cost of a new system if it’s not purchased in 2014. A 10-year delay would cost about $556,000 and a 20-year delay, an additional $1.185 million, Dr. Hynes said.

Besides the advance time for placing advertisements if a special referendum were to be held, there’s a 22-week lead time to get New York State Education Department approval of such a project, business manager Kathleen Minder told the board. So even if a referendum were approved, there would be a delay in when a project could be started. She estimated that it would cost $88,000 per year for 20 years to service a $1.2 million bond, with the balance coming from the district’s capital reserve fund.