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Lawmakers approve $2.5 million for Concord schools’ steam conversion

  • Construction where Concord High School will be producing its own heat and hot water before the next heating season.



Monitor staff
Friday, May 19, 2017

The state will give the Concord School District $2.5 million to help defray the costs of transitioning from Concord Steam if a plan approved by Senate budget writers becomes law.

The Senate Finance Committee gave initial approval to the funding Friday, with one senator saying it’s not the district’s fault it has to change heating sources. “The state was a vendor of heat and then they screwed up management of the thing,” said Republican Sen. John Reagan, who represents Deerfield, a town that sends some of its students to Concord High.

The Concord School District already has approved spending $9 million to convert Concord High School, Rundlett Middle School, Christa McAuliffe School and Abbot-Downing School to natural gas heat in preparation for Concord Steam’s closure at the end of the month. The project is underway and expected to be completed by October, but there have been some side effects. Demolition of the high school’s heat supply lines began at the start of May. Due to a lack of heat, temperatures at the school dipped into the 50s earlier this month.

“We had some chilly days earlier this month and that was kind of tough for staff and students,” said Superintendent Terri Forsten.

The district sought financial assistance from the education department last fall to cover the transition. But the emergency funding was denied after the state fire marshal determined the situation wasn’t “imminent danger.”

“We obviously saw that very differently,” Forsten said. “We saw not having heat or hot water as an emergency.”

The Concord School Board approved a $12 million bond to cover the new infrastructure needed to switch heat sources and to pay for three additional projects, including a technology upgrade, new buses and renovating a child care center.

The state financial assistance was proposed by Reagan and Concord Sen. Dan Feltes, who has advocated for aid to local businesses and nonprofits affected by the closure of the city’s lone steam producer.

Earlier this month, the Public Utilities Commission denied a proposal to establish a $1 million fund that would help customers cover the costs of transitioning to natural gas.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)