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St. Lawrence Central waiting for natural gas connection

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BRASHER FALLS — The heat is on at St. Lawrence Central School. It’s just not the natural gas heat school officials were hoping to have in place by now.

Instead of natural gas, the district is being heated with propane, which Superintendent Stephan J. Vigliotti said can be used until the natural gas system is on line at the schools.

“The heat is on and fairly well-controlled,” said Fred H. McLaughlin, director of transportation, buildings and grounds.

Mr. McLaughlin said he has been told that testing of the gas pipes was supposed to start Oct. 23 and the projection is that the system will be ready in mid-November.

“They’re telling us they hope to be on line and able to make the conversion at the Thanksgiving break. Worst-case scenario, it would be Christmas break,” he said.

“Maybe it’ll go quicker than the rest” of the project, Mr. McLaughlin said. “If not, we’re set up with propane.”

Because of the uncertainty about when natural gas would be available, the district converted its boilers to run on propane in the interim. It previously had used fuel oil to heat its buildings.

“In order to put the new boilers in, we had to take the oil boilers out. They’re going in the same space. The other boilers were steam and these are hot water. We tore out all the steam piping,” he said.

Work continues in the district to prepare for the conversion to natural gas, according to Mr. McLaughlin.

“I would say 80 percent of the project was boilers and piping underneath the school, stuff that you don’t see. Most of it is heating and ventilation. Most of this whole project is stuff that people will never see,” he said.

District taxpayers in December 2011 had approved an $8.2 million capital project that would allow the district to convert from heating oil to natural gas once St. Lawrence Gas passed by the district during its expansion into Franklin County.

That will allow the district to make the conversion to natural gas and save money in the process. It also plans to convert from steam to hot water, which also will save money. The steam line and heating units date back to the 1950s.

Contracts were awarded in April to Meridian Construction Corp. for general work, Black River Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning for mechanical work, S&L Electric Inc. for electric work and Burns Brothers Inc. for plumbing work.

A separate $375,000 project that was approved by voters in April is still ongoing, Mr. McLaughlin said. That project is addressing security at the high school and elementary schools by tightening access to the buildings. Once the project is complete, visitors to the schools will be able to enter the outside set of doors, but they will have to check in and present identification at a “transaction window” before they’re buzzed in by school personnel through the interior doors.

As part of the project, contractors are creating a transaction window between the two sets of doors at the high school and elementary school and a slot where visitors can provide their identification before entering the school. The entrance to the middle school will not be accessible during the day, and the entrance near the superintendent’s office is kept locked.

Teachers also will be able to lock their doors from the inside, a capability that is not now available on all the classroom doors. Once they’re locked, teachers still will be able to open the door from the inside, but it will remain locked from the outside.

Right now it’s a waiting game for that project, Mr. McLaughlin said.

“We’re still trying to get an answer on when we’ll get the doors, glass windows and hardware for the doors” he said.

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