City Hall's boiler failed Tuesday, compromising half the building's heat just as some of the coldest weather of the year set in.
Reparing the massive, 16-section piece of equipment in City Hall's sub-basement is going to require a crane to move in four 600-lb replacement sections so Arden Engineering of Pawtucket can attach them to the serpentine boiler, said Public Works Director Sheila McGauvran.
It'll also cost $16,000, a new expense for the city to pick up. "We were not expecting that," McGauvran said.
The boiler, which was installed in 1988, started leaking in four of its 16 snaking sections on Tuesday, she said. When workers attempted to fix the leaks, they found the steel of the leaking sections was rotted away. "It was falling apart," McGauvran said.
McGauvran called four local firms Tuesday to get the boiler repaired, but two said the job was too big for them, one wasn't available in time and another didn't return her call. Another round of calls on the advice of a mechanical engineer secured Arden Engineering, she said.
One local heating contractor who heard about the job on the radio offered Mayor Leo Fontaine to have a look, but the job was too big for him, too, she said.
The parts for the repair will be delivered today, and on Friday they'll begin working to move them into the boiler room, which is accessible only via stairs in City Hall's sub-basement. The repair itself will take a few days. McGauvran said they hope to have the boiler back in action by the middle of next week.
Meanwhile, half of the building is using space heaters to make things comfortable. Half of City Hall uses electric heat, McGauvran said. Those areas aren't affected, but Tuesday's Budget Commission and City Council meetings in Harris Hall were held without heat.
City Clerk Andrea Bicki is one of the lucky ones with electric baseboard heat, "So, it's bearable in here," she said.
After the immediate repair is accomplished, McGauvran said eventually the whole boiler will have to go. "It really should be replaced in the forseeable future," she said. That will cost $65,000, whether the city goes with oil or gas. Gas would be her choice, she said, since it's cheaper and more efficient.