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Amenia’s Proposed Million Dollar Heating System

by Antonia Shoumatoff
Tue Apr 26th, 2016

When the Town of Amenia acquired the current Town Hall for a dollar more than ten years ago the town knew that the heating system was old and would need to be replaced.  Three administrations later, just how to do that has gone through a number of concatenations, including geothermal, replacing the current steam boiler with another steam boiler, solar, pellet furnace and now changing from steam heat to hot water or hydronic heat.

“There were two sixty year-old steam boilers. One had to be decommissioned because it could not pass inspection. Now the remaining one would take $20-30 thousand to bring it up to par and it’s not worth it to fix it,” explained Supervisor Victoria Perotti.

The town has received 4 bids ranging from over a million to a million and a half for a heating replacement system including installing a pellet boiler , two oil fired boilers, replacing all of the obsolete heating units, and removal of old asbestos.  The bids were higher than expected and have had to be rejected because the town had only bonded $1,111,000 for the job which includes a $150,000 generator so the town can become a certified Red Cross shelter during emergencies for the Harlem Valley region. 

The most recent concept of a pellet furnace has just been rejected because it was too expensive with too many moving parts, a new silo, making holes into the building to deliver the pellets into the furnace, a separate flue and a control and synchronization system to measure efficiency and synchronize with the two hydronic (hot water) oil-fired furnaces, all added up to 4 exorbitant bids. 

“All the contractors told us, why you want to do this pellet furnace, no municipality has ever done this before, it is a whole separate set of work.”  We wanted energy efficiency.  The best way to do that and save money is to go from steam to hot water, so we will have three small boilers.  The energy savings we are going to get from steam to hot water is going to be substantial.  And we will look into solar for the future.”

Councilwoman Vicki Doyle explained “We always knew that retrofitting an old building was going to be expensive and we knew that the electrical system would have to be significantly updated. We are now preparing another set of bid specs that substitute the pellet boiler with a third oil fired hot water boiler (like the other two proposed). This will far be more energy efficient than current system, as it will be hydronic vs steam. They are sized to work more efficiently than one big huge one we have now that is well beyond its serviceable life.”

“We will have different heating zones.  We have to replace all the heating units in every room because they are obsolete.  Three do not work at all such as in the Historical Society room and the Planning Board office.  In order to heat them last year we had to take radiators out of the hall and hook them up,” continued Perotti.  “The new system will be computerized.  When the room is not in use the heat will be turned down and it can be dialed in according to when it is in use.  The whole heating system will be more energy efficient and the new bid specs will include new electrical which are expected to cost around $40,000.”

The $1,111,000 has been borrowed as a 25 year 1-2% bond which includes the $150,000 generator, the $17,000 to remove asbestos in old tunnels and tiles and $65,000 for Morris Associates to create the plan and supervise, do bid specs and construction administration.  Perotti told us they hired Morris Associates because they successfully replaced a similar old system at the Columbia County Court House.

Morris Associates told the Amenia Town Board last week: “If the Town goes with an oil-fired boiler in the re-bid, we believe there would be a savings of $300,000, perhaps more.  The silo storage, the thermal tanks, the separate flue and control system will not be required.”

Back when Bill Flood was Supervisor the town looked into geothermal and solar, going up to Stockbridge to see their set-up (which has been replaced with hot water oil-fired furnaces because their wells were inadequate).  In 2012, Bill Flood asked Jonathan Harkness and his company EBM Consulting to bid on the feasibility of solar and geothermal but the numbers did not work for the town until it was fully occupied with staff and or paying tenants.   The cost of around a million still required a back up of oil boilers and thus was too expensive.  

So the Town Board voted with a majority to prepare yet another set of bid specs that substitute the pellet boiler with a third oil-fired hot water boiler and expects that the bids that come in will be within the range of what they are bonded for.