The Town Council has agreed to fund the replacement of a broken boiler at Joseph W. Martin Elementary School.
The council voted 7-0 at its meeting on Nov. 13 to repurpose funds originally allocated to replace the boiler at Falls Elementary School and use it to redesign and replace the boiler at the Martin School. The funds come from the Fiscal Year 2023 Capital Investment Program (CIP). The cost for the work at Martin Elementary would be $200,000, with an additional $400,000 allocated for a design study. The council also agreed to resubmit the Falls Elementary proposal as part of FY2025 CIP that night.
The move comes after one of the two boilers the Martin School uses for heat shut down in October. An inspection found several cracks had formed in the boiler’s structure. Superintendent Dr. John Antonucci said that the school is using one boiler to provide heat and hot water to students and faculty. If it were to fail, the school would be without heat during winter.
“We originally planned to replace only the Fall School boiler, but when the boiler shut down at Martin, we had this emergency situation,” Antonucci said. “If the heat goes out, we can’t have school.”
The boiler, installed in 1998, is made of cast iron, a material used less in recent years in favor of steel. Ernest Sandland, the school’s facility director, said it is impossible to repair the boiler because cast iron boiler parts are no longer in production.
“Like anything else, if you can get the sections of the boilers, you can repair them,” Sandland said. “The issue is that we don’t have those parts anymore, meaning we can’t repair them.”
According to Sandland, the Falls School’s boiler is over 50 years old and is at the end of its life cycle. Unlike the Martin School’s boiler, some parts can be replaced to keep it running throughout the winter. However, Sanland made it clear that replacing the boiler was still necessary for the schools to have heat and hot water for the winter.
“It could break down tomorrow, or in two months,” Sandland said. “We can do maintenance on this boiler because we have the parts available.”
The need to replace the aging boilers is only a part of the constant maintenance that the elementary schools require. The roof of the Amvet Boulevard School, which was opened in 1960, needed to be replaced in 2022 after 25 years of use. Recently, the boilers at the Community School were replaced as they had begun to fall into disrepair. The funding for these projects is part of the CIP for each fiscal year. Antonucci said inspections on the building infrastructure are conducted yearly to see which items need replacing.
“This isn’t done willy-nilly,” Antonucci said. “There is no secret that we have old buildings and that North Attleborough for years has been deferring maintenance.”
, Antonucci said the priority for the School Department is to be transparent in addressing infrastructure problems. He said that the students in North Attleborough deserve to have quality school infrastructure to keep them warm throughout the winter or sheltered from rain, even if it means taking time to fix roofs, windows, or boilers.
“The current school and town administration are on the same page,” Antonucci said. “We know our buildings need attention, and we owe it to our residents.”