MILLINOCKET, Maine — School leaders will pick an engineer on Tuesday to design a boiler system for Stearns High School as part of a project timed so tight that it could risk leaving Stearns unheated through early winter, officials said Monday.
The Millinocket School Committee will choose one out of at least two submitted engineering proposals for the project at its 4 p.m. meeting at Stearns before passing its recommendation to the Town Council for action on Thursday, Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Smith said.
If all goes well, Stearns will have a new boiler system operational by mid-October, with final pricing on the project set on June 24 and construction starting in July, Smith said.
“We’re right up against it,” Smith said.
“I think it is really ambitious, but if we get right at it, I think we can do it,” committee Chairman Arnold Hopkins said Monday. “I hope we could get it done before November.”
Exactly what will happen if the project goes off its tight timeline is unclear, Smith and Hopkins said.
Of the school’s two boilers, the 40-year-old boiler is dead, and the other has leaky tubing and is unreliable, Smith said. School leaders brought forward earlier this year a plan to replace the boilers for council review, but councilors rejected it.
The council was uncomfortable with the project’s scope and the fact that only one engineer had been consulted. Councilors requested a bid process.
“It is a big project,” Smith said. “We will have to remove one side of the building where the furnace is because it is too big. We will have to remove a wall and take the dead boiler out. It is a big deal.”
One of the project’s complexities, Smith said, involves its replacing the building’s steam heating system with a hot water system, not an easy task.
School maintenance workers have coaxed the two-boiler system much further along than its designers ever recommended, to the point where no fix is economical and reliable enough to recommend, school leaders have said.