SOUTHINGTON — Officials are looking into the causes of increased heating oil consumption at DePaolo Middle School that could cost up to $80,000.
Fred Cox, school director of operations, said school and construction officials are trying to determine how much of the extra expense was caused by the cold winter and how much is connected to ongoing renovations at DePaolo. Ceiling tiles and about 12 inches of insulation were removed at DePaolo and Kennedy middle schools as part of the $89.7-million renovation project.
Officials suspect DePaolo’s 50-year-old boiler is also a factor because Kennedy, which operates on a newer natural gas system, is not having the same problem. Construction made it difficult to keep all areas of DePaolo at an even temperature.
“We’re actually trying to identify the actual degree days this winter versus the last several winters to do a comparison,” Cox said. “It’s pretty typical to have your utility bill increase a little bit with electric and heating during a construction project.”
After a determination is made, the issue will be discussed with the Middle School Building Committee, Cox said.
Sherri DiNello, school director of business and finance, said she thinks the increased use of heating oil at DePaolo was mainly caused by the removal of ceiling tiles and insulation.
“We had anticipated that we needed about 35,000 gallons at DePaolo this year,” DiNello said. “We’ve already had 52,000 delivered.”
DiNello said extra expense for oil could be $70,000 to $80,000. The school district is paying for the heating oil out of its operating budget but DiNello hopes to receive reimbursement from the building committee.
“We’re sharing information in hopes that we might be able to get reimbursed,” DiNello said.
School board chairman and building committee member Brian Goralski said he said he hopes the expense can be shared.
“It’s logical, for me, with both hats, that it is connected to the construction project,” Goralski said.
Ed Pocock Jr., chairman of the building committee, hopes to find a resolution. He said he’s been “working diligently” with Newfield Construction to find the cause of the heat consumption.
“I got to be fair with the Board of Education,” Pocock said. “A lot of it might be due to construction, but until I get my report back from Newfield, I can’t really say. It is being worked on. It is a sizable amount.”
At a building committee meeting last month, the high temperatures in DePaolo’s library on the second floor caused committee members to open windows.
“We try to moderate it,” said Chris Palmieri, building committee vice chairman and DePaolo assistant principal. “There have been times where it has been too cold, but also times where it has been too hot. It has been a little more difficult to maintain than over past years.”
Before any steps can be taken school officials need to understand the causes of the problem better.
“Once we can drill down on how much additional cost is weather driven and construction driven, then we have conversation as to what (will) fill in the gap there,” Cox said. “This is something that was not budgeted for.”