The generator at Saranac Central School has failed, prompting an emergency expenditure and the cancellation of after school activities
DANNEMORA — A generator failure at Saranac Central School has prompted emergency action by the school board and left afterschool programs in the dark this week.
During the regular meeting of the Saranac Central School District board meeting Tuesday, Nov. 1, the board approved an emergency plan to replace the school’s 45-year-old generator. The 100-kilowatt diesel generator is expected to cost approximately $200,000.
In the meantime, without an emergency source of electricity in place, the district has been forced to suspend all after school activities, including a high school fall concert scheduled for Nov. 2.
As a temporary fix, the district will rent a 75-kilowatt generator until the permanent one is installed. That unit is supposed to be in place Friday, Nov. 4.
Superintendent Kenneth Cringle said the generator failure at the Saranac Middle/High School campus shows how important the need for system updates are immediately.
“Thats the problem with aging systems, most of the time you can repair them, but they are extremely costly, that’s the disadvantage,“ Cringle said.
Not replacing these systems would “cost taxpayers much more in the long run, escalating repair cost, and in situations like this it’s really going to hit us hard if we do not have time to replace something,” he said.
For the past few years the generator has consistently failed, been repaired, and failed again, prompting the board to include its replacement in a $5.6 million capital improvement plan.
That plan, which includes updating energy and safety systems, is being paid for by a state EXCEL grant, with no impact to local taxpayers. EXCEL grants are available to all public school districts in New York state and may be used for energy, technology and safety improvements.
Unfortunately, the unexpected failure of the generator forced the school board to rent the temporary generator and make the generator’s replacement an emergency project, instead of having it replaced as part of the planned capitol improvements.
Nevertheless, Cringle said about 90 percent of the $200,000 emergency project can be covered from an emergency aid from the state, including the rental of the temporary generator.
“So the downside is we have to use fund balance monies, because we didn't have it planned, but the upside is we'll be able to recuperate 90 percent of it because of eligibility for building aid,” Cringle said. “It shouldn't affect taxes. We'll still use some fund balance we didn't plan on using but we certainly won't use it to the tune of $200,000.”
The generator, in case of power outages, is the school’s emergency back up for any electrical failure including lighting, heating, and the coolers for the cafeteria.
Kringle said the board was under the impression there were backup battery systems the school could use in the meantime, but it was determined that alternative was too costly. The batteries would cost $15,000 a year.
The board is expected to enter into a formal contract to replace the generator during its next regular board meeting Nov. 15.