A heated legal battle could keep the Ticonderoga Armory cold this winter.
An oil-fired boiler exploded at the building, which serves as home to the Ti Area Senior Citizens and the local youth commission, last April. The blast destroyed one boiler and seriously damaged another, leaving the facility without heat.
A subsequent legal dispute has prevented the town from making repairs.
“We have every intention of getting heat into that building,” Supervisor Deb Malaney said. “We’re doing to do our best to keep them (seniors and children) where they are. Besides, we don’t want to have an empty building with no heat through the winter. We’re concerned about the damage the cold could do to the building.”
The Armory also serves as home to the Adirondack Community Action Program nutrition site and as a community center. It hosts a variety of community groups and activities throughout the year.
The town’s insurance carrier has agreed to pay $93,119 to cover the replacement of the boilers and other damage. That’s the good news for Ti.
The bad news is the insurance company believes negligence on the part of the boiler installation company or the boiler maintenance firm caused the explosion. The insurance company wants to recoup its payment to the town from the responsible party. That means a lengthy investigation, which is still not complete. Ticonderoga can’t make repairs until the investigators are done studying the damaged boilers.
At its August meeting the Ti town board directed that a letter be sent to all parties with a September deadline for completing the investigation.
“We have to move forward,” Malaney said. “We can’t wait forever.”
Even if Ti gets the OK to start work on the boiler repairs, there may not be time to get the work done before winter.
The explosion exposed asbestos, which could take up to nine weeks to remove. It’s anticipated the installation of a new heating system could take another nine weeks. That’s up to 18 weeks — 4 1/2 months — which means the building may not have heat until the end of January.
Malaney said trustees are considering an emergency declaration at the building, which would allow the town to speed through the normal bidding process.
“We’re doing our best; we want to get heat in there are quickly as possible,” the supervisor said. “We can’t make any promises, though. There are just too many variables.”
While waiting for the go-ahead to work on the damaged heating system the town board is investigating other options.
“The cost of fuel (oil) is so expensive it may not make sense to put another oil boiler in there,” Malaney said. “We’re looking at alternatives. (Trustee) Jeff Cook has been researching a wood pellet boiler system.”
The wood pellet system is more expensive to install, Malaney said, but cheaper to operate than an oil system.
During the August town board meeting trustees voted to have an engineering study done to review the feasibility of different heating systems.
Malaney said the town spends about $45,000 a year for heat and electricity in the Armory.
“It’s such an expensive building to maintain,” she said. “This is an opportunity to see if we can save some money in the future.”
It’s likely an alternative heating system will cost more to install than the $93,119 the insurance is providing. With that in mind the town is seeking an energy-efficiency grant from the state that could pay 75 percent of the cost. The remaining 25 percent would be covered by the insurance payment or in-kind services.
Should the Armory not have heat this winter, the senior and youth programs will be forced to re-locate. The town board is already discussing possible homes for the groups.
“There’s no shortage of space in the community,” Malaney said. “We’ll find everyone a home, if need be. It’s still our intention and hope to get heat in the Armory this fall.”