Power Problems Continue To Plague ESM Parking Lot

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A preliminary inspection of the Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School in Manorville revealed an electrical problem that’s been buried, literally, for almost 12 years, and one that could potentially cost the district $500,000 to fix.

According to ESM Assistant Superintendent for Business Rich Snyder, underground wires that supply power to the campus’s parking lots were not properly buried when the school was being built in the early 2000s. He explained that the recent inspection, conducted at no cost by the Long Island Power Authority, revealed that the wires were improperly covered with soil instead of screened sand.

The soil, he continued, contained twigs and other objects that most likely nicked the wires, which is now disrupting the flow of power to the parking lot lights. As a result, some do not work while others have an oversupply of voltage. He added that sand is a better insulator for wires and also drains better than soil.

“If you have a well-hidden condition, you’re going to be hard-pressed,” Mr. Snyder told Board of Education members during last week’s board meeting.

He also noted that the statute of limitations prevents the district from requiring that the original contractor—Welsbach Electric of Long Island in Plainview—to fix the problem. The work in question was part of an $8.1 million project, according to Mr. Snyder.

The most recent problem is not the first that the district has encountered with the same company. In 2012, Welsbach Electric agreed to replace lights—at no cost to the district—along the bus loop and next to the turf fields at the Manorville school due to similar issues.

Representatives of Welsbach Electric could not be reached for comment this week as the office number listed on the company’s website has been disconnected.

At this stage, Mr. Snyder said he does not know how extensive the problem is since only a few areas were tested. “It has to be fixed,” he said. “We have ourselves committed to the fact that we’ll probably have to rip them all out and start again.”

Mr. Snyder estimated the cost of the repairs at $500,000. He noted that the problem was discovered after the Board of Education adopted its 2014-15 budget, meaning the project most likely will have to be covered by the district’s reserves, which currently stand at around $3.6 million, he said.

“This is not something that can be budgeted anyway,” Mr. Snyder said. “We just have to use reserves and the fund balance, and be thankful that we have it.”

He is now putting together a bid package and intends to present it within the next two weeks. With summer quickly approaching, time is not on the district’s side, Mr. Snyder said. Ideally, he said he would like to get the project done while school is not in session.

“It’s tight. It’s very tight to bid and put out there,” he said, “and it’s especially tough when school is in session. So we’re looking at the summer.”

The school year ends on June 27, which gives Mr. Snyder about two months to put together the bid package and get it approved.

“Start to finish, we’re looking at about six months if I expedite this quickly,” he said.

Despite needing to fix the current problem as soon as possible, Mr. Snyder told the board and members of the public that he would explore as many options as he could, including solar power.

“I don’t want to rush this and risk not finding a more economical solution,” he said.

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