Compromised electric to be replaced at CAES Planned conduit was never installed; more digging needed

By Shawn Cunningham and Cynthia Prairie
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

A still of the meeting taken from the Zoom video conference

The Green Mountain Unified School District board held a special meeting on Monday night to discuss a new wrinkle in repairing the problems caused by flooding at Chester-Andover Elementary and returning 243 pupils to their classrooms. While schools officials are still hoping to reopen by Thanksgiving, the fix will add more than $20,000 to the cost of repairs and is likely not covered by insurance.

The latest issue came up last Friday, as electricians were preparing to hook up power to the new electrical panels in the school’s refurbished boiler room. A “Megger” test was performed to determine the state of the three-phase service cable coming into the building. One leg of the service failed. Recently, the 64-year-old 3-inch steel conduit that contained the cable had been found to be full of water and the tests showed that the insulation around the service had deteriorated and the cable would need to be replaced.

Newly installed boilers await water and electric service. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

The water damage could have occurred in the first flooding that the school experienced this fall, which caused extensive damage to the boiler room when a flange bolt broke.  As repairs to the boiler room and to two classrooms flooded when a water main broke continue, pupils are attending school in designated classrooms at Green Mountain High.

According to Naomi Johnson, president of the  engineering firm Dufresne Group, the current conduit was not large enough to contain the new and larger service cable, which would require a 4-inch pipe. While the school board had voted to install such conduits in the same trench as the new 8-inch water main back on Sept. 18, they were never put in. The idea was that the new conduits would be available if the school ever needed to upgrade its service from 400 to 600 amps. The average home is 100-amp service.

Electrical distribution panels awaiting installation

On Sept. 21, a day or so before work was to begin on the water service, Green Mountain Power employees met with school officials and told them that, under GMP guidelines, the power conduit could be in the same trench but it would need to be at least 10 feet from the water pipe. The solution was to dig a shallower trench 10 feet from the water pipe, which would have added to the cost.

Instead, the decision was made to omit the new conduit and take a $3,348 credit on the job for materials not installed. At Monday’s meeting, there was some confusion about whether the change was discussed by the board and, as of Tuesday, it was still unresolved. What was clear is that the work will have to be done now.  According to Johnson, M&M said it would now cost $20,335 including the four conduits but not the wire.

Board Vice Chair Joe Fromberger said a citizen had asked him why the conduit was not being put in when the water main trench was dug. He replied that that was news to him.

Construction supplies laid out in the multi-purpose room.

“Who made the decision not to go ahead with placing the conduits?” asked board member Mike Studin on Monday night.

Superintendent Meg Powden said she thought that the board had discussed it.

“This was not a vote the board took,” Fromberger said. “This was a decision made by whoever.”

Powden said she would have to look at the minutes and notes.

On a motion by board member Rick Alexander, the board voted to go ahead with the M&M bid to install conduit.

The pole in the foreground will be moved to the CAES side of the fence by GMP and connected to the school’s underground conduit.

“I want to go on the record, we need to communicate more as a group, I would have put that conduit in the ground while we were there,” said Alexander. “I feel bad I did not have a part in saying we should have been there.”

The supervisory union has also solicited four bids – due on Tuesday Nov. 6 – for pulling the new service wires into the conduit. Powden asked the board for the go-ahead for the work contingent on the approval of Johnson’s recommendation or her own, or Alexander’s, review of the bids.

Fromberger said he could not support that and asked the board to hold another meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday Nov. 7 at Green Mountain High School to review the bids.

“The issue for me is approving an expenditure when I don’t know what the expenditure is,” said Fromberger. “My preference is to have some numbers.”

The electrical service comes to the school on overhead lines until it reaches the pole just inside the fence of the yard next to the school on Main Street. Green Mountain Power representative Alonzo Neff said that the company wants to move the pole over the fence and onto CAES property as part of the overall work. GMP will also replace the pole-mounted conduit that contains the service cable that connects to the underground pipe that goes into the school.

Monday’s meeting, was held in the office of Superintendent Powden at Fletcher Farm in Ludlow, but was available to the public through a video conferencing service. On Friday, Mary Moeykens, TRSU’s Public Relations coordinator, told The Telegraph that the meeting was held in Ludlow because there were no facilities available for a last minute meeting at GMUSD’s schools.

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  1. B. Fowler says:

    Shouldn’t the Project Manager have notes on this issue? Those notes should contain who it was that made the decision to forego the additional conduit. That is one of the many responsibilities of a Project Manager, capturing issues, taking notes on the issues “progress”, and pursuing them to resolution, and closure.