Onteora transformers ruined by lightning strike; middle/high school running on generator
BOICEVILLE, N.Y. — The Onteora school district is hurrying to replace the electrical transformers in its middle/high school building on state Route 28 after the existing units were destroyed by a lightning strike.
The 60-year-old transformers were rendered useless after lightning struck the building Monday morning, the district said in a press release. Now the goal is to have new transformers in place and working before the school year starts in September.
For now, the building is being powered by a generator, the press release said.
Onteora Superintendent Phyllis Spiegel McGill said on Friday that the transformers did not contain polychlorinated biphenyls. PCBs, which have been banned since the late 1970s because of their link to cancer, once were used in lubricating oils in electrical transformers. In the early 1990s, when transformers exploded during a power surge at SUNY New Paltz, PCBs contaminated the air and surfaces in several campus buildings.
McGill said the state Education Department has agreed to consider the Onteora incident an emergency, meaning the approval process to replace the transformers will take less time than usual.
McGill said the district had planned to repair or replace the transformers as part of a five-year facilities plan, but that now, because they were destroyed by a storm, the district’s insurance will cover at least part of the cost.
“It may be odd and actually work to our advantage,” McGill said.
She said the district’s facilities plan estimated that replacing the transformers would cost about $400,000.
McGill called the timing of the transformer damage “strangely perfect” because school was not in session, there was no professional development events taking place there and payroll had done run the week before.
“We had some breathing room to get the generator up and running, which was a fairly complicated process,” she said. Continued...
McGill said the power was out in the high school, middle school and district administrative office (which is in the basement of the high school) until the generator was brought in. She said the water system at Bennett Elementary school, which is on the same property, also was knocked out because it’s powered by electricity from the middle/high school building,
“We are up and running now with the generator,” McGill said on Friday, though she noted the staff is being conservative with its use of air conditioning and lights in an effort to preserve power.
McGill said school district officials will meet on Monday with representatives from Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp., an outside engineer, the district’s architect and the district’s insurance company to discuss restoration plans and expenses.
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