After water tank bursts in Voorheesville school: Classes cancelled, pricey new equipment likely lost

— From the Voorheesville Central School District

The water rose as high as seven feet in the mechanical room of Voorheesville’s middle- and high-school building after a hot-water tank burst burst on Jan. 26.

NEW SCOTLAND — After a hot-water tank burst in Voorheesville’s middle- and high-school building over the weekend, classes were cancelled for the first part of the week and expensive, recently-installed mechanical equipment is likely lost.

Classes resumed on Wednesday after temporary heat and hot water had been set up.

The burst was first detected by a custodian on Sunday, Jan. 26, between 9:30  and 10 a.m, Superintendent Frank Macri told The Enterprise. Macri said it was unclear how long the water had been running when the custodian came across it; the water reached a depth of seven feet, according to the district. Boilers, hot-water tanks, and holding tanks in the room were all submerged.

The room itself is recessed into the ground. “It’s in a pit,” Macri said on Monday at a special board of education, which is why the water didn’t overflow into the school’s hallways.

Superintendent Frank Macri said at a special board of education meeting on Monday that he was “hoping” the building can be reopened at some point this week but he didn’t want to offer a specific day — there were too many variables at play for him to make any promises. “It’s a day-by-day situation,” Macri said.

The burst was first detected by a custodian on Sunday, Jan. 26, between 9:30  and 10 a.m, Macri told The Enterprise. Macri said it was unclear how long the water had been running when the custodian came across it; the water reached a depth of seven feet, according to the district. Boilers, hot-water tanks, and holding tanks in the room were all submerged.

The room itself is recessed into the ground. “It’s in a pit,” Macri said, which is why the water didn’t overflow into the school’s hallways.

From the time the water was shut off and it was deemed safe to enter the room, it took the fire department only about an hour to pump out the room, Macri said. “They deserve all the kudos — they were fantastic,” he said of the fire department members who responded. 

When he looked at it, Macri said, he saw water gushing out of either side of the tank, and said that he was told by the experienced professionals who came in to repair the burst that they had never seen anything like what had happened with the tank.

Macri didn’t have a cost estimate for repairing the damage caused by the burst. He also said the cause of the burst is not yet known.

Asked if all of the equipment in the room was a total loss, Macri said that was for the insurance company to decide, adding, “If your car is in a flood, you typically don’t turn it back on.”

The district isn’t turning back on any of the six-month-old equipment in the room, he said.

Macri said that the district has multiple layers of insurance; in addition, the mechanical work is still an open capital project, so the contractor, Crisafulli Brothers Plumbing and Heating, also has insurance. “So, we’re working with who’s going to pay for it,” Macri said on Monday.

The district has a $5,000 deductible, he said. 

If there are any immediate out-of-pocket expenses that have to be taken from the district’s general fund, Macri said he expects Voorheesville to be reimbursed by its insurance company. 

The upgrades to the mechanical room were part of the district’s $7.7 million capital project that was approved by voters in May 2018. As part of the project, the district budgeted nearly $1.5 million to replace boilers in all of its buildings — a number that includes the district’s other school, its elementary school. 

Macri said that temporary heat and hot water will be needed so that the school can be reopened. 

Voorheesville’s 180-day school calendar builds in a few snow or contingency days so that, in the event of, say, two school days lost to snowstorms, the school year will still end on time. By Thursday, the high school and middle school will have run out of those contingency days. 

“Then we’re going to have to bring kids and staff back,” Macri said. “But at this point, it’s still up in the air and it’s just too early to tell.” 

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