November 21st, 2017

Boiler penny-pinch in 2004 comes back to bite city


By Tim Kalinowski on May 19, 2017.


tkalinowski@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNTimKal

The city is admitting it likely bought a lemon when it purchased a low-efficiency boiler system to save on construction costs at the Esplanade back in 2004.

“What I do understand is the boilers that were put in at the time have had history of failing in this way,” says general manager of corporate asset management Joe Cartwright. “It has been seen in this type of boiler before.”

He stresses this fact was unknown to city planners and building engineers at the time. Cartwright says added financial pressure due to Esplanade construction cost overruns also likely contributed to the decision to buy this type of boiler system.

“It’s possible the boilers might have been one thing that were looked at under the (value engineering) concept at the time, and they might have went with something that still met specification, but would have been the cheapest option.”

Until now, city staff have been able to coax the boilers to keep going even though they actually began failing a few years back, says Cartwright.

“They have actually been failing the past couple years, and we have been scavenging parts from one unit to another, and the problem is we can’t get parts for these units anymore. The manufacturer has discontinued the line,” explains Cartwright.

Many have questioned the hefty price tag of $1.47 million to replace the boilers, including Coun. Jim Turner, who was quite outspoken about the issue at Monday’s council meeting.

“From my point of view, and my experience in life, boilers normally last more than 10 years,” says Turner. “I owned a building that was 60 years old, and it still had the same boiler in it. I was quite shocked we were replacing a boiler after only 10 years for over $1.4 million … On the other hand, I think the original budget line for this was $2.3 million; so it came in at less than that. That’s positive anyway.”

Cartwright explains why the cost of replacement is so expensive in this instance.

“The additional cost involved really comes down to the complexity of the project,” he says. “Because we are maintaining the museum, it means we can’t take the boilers offline … And it’s a complete replacement of all the boilers. The complexity of the project means we have to put a temporary boiler on the outside of the building to maintain steam and heat generation and humidity during the project.”

Cartwright adds the city is purchasing three top-of-the-line, high-efficiency boilers this time around, which also increases the cost. The piping and other infrastructure joining to the boilers will also have to be fully replaced to bring the new boilers online. Cartwright hopes once the work is completed, the Esplanade will not have to worry about its boiler system for several decades to come.

“We are really hoping these ones will get us through our next 20-25 years,” he says.


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