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Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, January 27, 2022 and The Weekly Packet, January 27, 2022
Winter, delayed repairs are disrupting area schools
Leaking pipes, icy roads messing up school days

by Leslie Landrigan

Snow, ice, cold and deferred maintenance are creating headaches for the School Union 76 administration this winter.

A snowstorm on Tuesday, January 25, caused a two-hour delay to the opening of the schools in Sedgwick, Brooklin and Deer Isle, according to Interim Superintendent Bob England.

That followed a burst pipe in Sedgwick on Monday, January 24, and a burst pipe at Deer Isle-Stonington High School on Thursday, January 20. Students in both schools had to go home after the incidents, though the pipe in the high school burst half an hour before dismissal.

“It’s Brooklin’s turn now,” joked England in a phone interview. But seriously, he said, “there’s potential all over the place because of the lack of a maintenance plan.”

Before England leaves at the end of the school year, he said, he intends to come up with a list of maintenance projects.

Burst pipe at Island high school

A shut door, a draft, an older HVAC unit and a faulty thermostat all may have contributed to the burst pipe at the high school, England said.

He said there was a significant draft in the ceiling area above the high school nurses’ station. An external damper on the old HVAC unit may have played a part as well, he said.

“The major issue was that the thermostat in that area appears to have been faulty and the door into another heated space was shut,” England said. A fitting in the sprinkler system froze and burst the pipe, which set off an alarm and brought the local fire departments.

Water flooded the nurses’ station, the hallway and the guidance and principal’s office, England said. A very old rug covered the floors, and it will be replaced with tile to match the rest of the school, he said. That will be easier to clean and improve air quality, an important consideration during the COVID-19 pandemic, England said.

“We did file an insurance claim for damages,” he said.

The pipe was fixed that night, said England. Repair people had the part in stock and drove down right away from the Bangor area. However, they didn’t arrive until about 5:45 p.m. because they got stuck behind a multi-vehicle accident on Caterpillar Hill, he said.

Burst pipe at Sedgwick

Sedgwick Elementary School will get tile to replace soaked rugs, as well, England said. That pipe burst on Monday morning because of a problem with the filter in the water supply system.

The school served lunch and then sent the students home, England said. School resumed Tuesday as drinking water was brought in and a temporary patch applied so that the restrooms worked.

But, said England, a permanent repair can’t be made until late June because of supply chain disruptions. The needed part won’t arrive for another 22 weeks, he said.

Icy roads

England drove the roads in Sedgwick early on Tuesday, January 25, and saw some of them hadn’t been plowed. So he decided to delay school opening throughout the union.

“During the last storm in Sedgwick, they didn’t plow the roads until late, so I just couldn’t risk it,” he said.

A shortage of people willing to drive a snowplow has frustrated town officials throughout the Peninsula and Island this winter.

Deferred maintenance

The pipes that burst should have been taken care of years ago, England said.

He said a plan had been drawn up before the pandemic to deal with a number of maintenance issues. He had to ask around to find it and made copies when he did.

England’s objective before he leaves, he said, is to identify and schedule some items in the plan.

“I want to try to get them scheduled so the next person can focus on the more important thing, which is education,” he said.