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October 23, 2013

Boilers slow to warm at some TCAPS buildings

TRAVERSE CITY — An early visit from Old Man Winter chilled some Traverse City Area Public School students and staff.

Several TCAPS buildings, including Central Grade School, the old Long Lake Elementary School and the district's administration building, were without heat on Tuesday after temperatures in Traverse City slipped down to 35 degrees and snow fell for the first time this season.

TCAPS officials began to turn on boiler systems at district buildings last week, but a few systems were still being fired up on Tuesday. Paul Soma, the district's associate superintendent of finance & operations, said district staffers play a guessing game when it comes to turning on the heat.

"Every time at this time of year we have problems in both directions," Soma said. "Sometimes (officials) start the heat too soon and it's hot, other times this happens.

"It wasn't even 10 days ago that we had an 80-degree day. If you start the boilers then, the buildings are extremely uncomfortable in the other direction."

Paul Mahon, TCAPS director of capital projects and maintenance, said it takes up to eight hours for some of the district's boiler systems to warm. He said all the systems should be up and running by today.

TCAPS officials said they did not know exactly how chilly it was Tuesday at Central Grade School or the old Long Lake elementary building, currently rented by the charter Geenspire School.

TCAPS Superintendent Stephen Cousins estimated the temperature of his office in the district's administration building dropped to the low-60s. Cousins said he's used to chilly temperatures because his office has west-facing, single-pane windows.

"I keep a wool sweater in there," Cousins said.

Soma said turning on the district's boilers is a complicated process.

“If it was as easy as flipping a switch, we wouldn't have this problem,” he said.

But he said the process could be improved.

"I think we need to look at it and we need to try to avoid this kind of thing next year,” Soma said.

Traverse City will continue to see temperatures 10- to 15-degrees below normal with periods of intermediate rain and snow showers throughout the week, according to the National Weather Service's Gaylord station.

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