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Indian River project balloons from $50,000 to $173,900

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PHILADELPHIA — It’s called “scope creep.”

That’s how James R. Koch, business manager of the Indian River Central School District, described a project that began with a plan to buy $50,000 worth of fans to increase air pressure in Philadelphia Primary School and will now require an unbudgeted $173,900 to add an air handler, cut and patch the roof, and add fire dampers.

During Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, Mr. Koch explained the project is necessary because fumes that smell of burned fuel have been sucked into the building since a new boiler began operating last fall.

“The project grew and grew and grew,” he said. “It’s my mess-up.”

When the school was built, it used a coal-fired boiler, which requires a bigger chimney.

“What that does is create a big void in there where the gas can linger,” he said. “That negative air pressure we have inside was actually drawing it back in.”

Because the chimney in the building’s center cannot be reconstructed without even greater costs, the air pressure inside the building has to be increased.

The problem with installing fans or opening windows is that cold air would be drawn in, raising the heating bill.

When the bids came back for the project, Mr. Koch said he uttered an expletive out of surprise.

The final bid was awarded to Empire Northeast Mechanical Contractor in Gouverneur.

Mr. Koch said he could rearrange utility finances and do away with an unnecessary drainage project to make what he calls an essential project happen.

Board members agreed the project had to be done this year and said they understood the construction bill will be higher than planned.

“If this was a different financial situation for us, it couldn’t have happened,” said board member Peter D. Shue.

The project is scheduled to be done by mid-November.

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