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May 07. 2014 6:07PM

Voters to decide how to heat Franconia school

FRANCONIA — Lafayette Regional School District voters will meet this evening to decide whether to remove the existing oil tank and convert the heating system at Lafayette Regional School from oil to liquefied-petroleum gas.

The special district meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at the school that serves students from Easton, Franconia and Sugar Hill in kindergarten through Grade 6.

A majority vote is required for the article to pass.

Voters had appropriated $78,000 in March to convert from oil to wood pellet/LP gas, said Tina Peabody, who chairs the Lafayette Regional School Board, on Tuesday.

Unhappiness with the use of pellets led to a petition effort by voters that resulted in Thursday’s special meeting.

“A lot of people are upset and don’t want the wood pellets,” said Peabody, adding that an engineering study commissioned by the school board determined that wood pellets alone could not sufficiently heat the school.

While there’s a group of voters who think wood pellets “are the way to go” because they’re sustainable and available locally, another group has pointed out that using them exclusively would require additional maintenance costs, enlarging the boiler room, as well as creating external storage space for the pellets, said Peabody.

She said the engineering study looked at geothermal and quickly rejected it as too expensive. The study also looked at staying with oil, switching to LP, also known as propane, or a combination of pellets and propane.

“We basically were looking at the most efficient system for the money and propane came in $70,000 cheaper than the wood pellets and it was $20,000 to $30,000 less than staying with oil and upgrading the furnace based on the price of everything in September,” said Peabody.

Propane, she said, “had the quickest payback and we’re very aware of taxpayers and we figured it was a better decision to go with the cheapest system rather than going with the more expensive system when you don’t know if there’s savings down the road.”

Peabody hopes that every voter who is eligible to cast a ballot comes out to the special meeting this evening. She said if the article fails, “We will move forward with the wood pellet/propane model recommended in March.”

“I’m waiting on the voters to tell as what to do,” Peabody said, adding that whatever they decide, “we hope to do it this summer.”

jkoziol@newstote.com


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