EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — With heating oil prices climbing, Union 113 is preparing to seek as much as $1 million in grants to replace oil-burning furnaces at Schenck High and Medway Middle schools with money-saving pellet or wood-chip boilers, officials said Tuesday.
Under tentative plans that Union 113 Superintendent Quenten Clark is formulating, the East Millinocket and Medway school committees would seek as much as $1 million for the boilers through the Maine Department of Conservation, he said.
One boiler, at Medway Middle School, is relatively young, having been installed last year, while the East Millinocket high school’s boilers are 1987 and 1957 models and burn an archaic mix of No. 2 and No. 6 heating oils available only through a Searsport distributor, Clark said.
“They are both running and pass inspection every year,” Clark said of Schenck’s boilers. “At this point, if there wasn’t an opportunity to save significantly on fuel costs we could probably keep running them, but the 1957 model at least is past its prime.”
No decisions have been made yet, but replacing both boiler systems looks like a good deal, said Greg Stanley, chairman of the Union 113 board of directors and of Medway’s school committee.
“Even at last year’s prices the savings were impressive,” Stanley said Tuesday.
As superintendent of SAD 58, which covers Avon, Eustis, Kingfield, Phillips and Strong in Franklin County, Clark has had experience installing pellet boilers at SAD 58 schools and reaped some considerable savings, he said.
A ton of pellets costs about $170 delivered, Clark said, and is the heating equivalent of about 130 gallons of heating oil, which costs about $400.
If the school committees opt to replace the boilers, the replacement would occur in about a year, Clark said.
Clark is working to find a contractor who could help apply for the grants and install the boilers. The grant money would come through a third round of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding dedicated to alternative energy development — about $11 million to $12 million in as yet unspent money, Clark said.
The school systems are hoping to get in-kind donations from contractors that could save as much as 20 percent of the project’s total cost, Stanley said.