When the city of Rhinelander's finance, wage and salary committee started looking at its 2018 capital borrowing on Jan. 2, the prognosis on the health of the three aging boilers in the basement of City Hall was that they should be able to limp along another two years.
This news was met with relief as it would spare the committee from having to borrow up to $150,000 for the new units, a hot water heater and HVAC work out of the just over $1 million the city can borrow this year without raising the tax levy for debt service.
The boilers, however, never got the memo. Two promptly gave up the ghost the week after the meeting, necessitating the emergency replacement of all three units this week.
The first two boilers went down sometime right before Jan. 8, city administrator Keith Kost told the committee Monday.
"I got called at 7 in the morning and (finance director) Wendi (Bixby) said it was 41 degrees," Kost said. "And (parks, buildings and ground director) Jeremy (Biolo) went downstairs and we had already lost one boiler and the second boiler had already exploded."
He said City Hall was heated by one boiler from then on. "When it ran," he clarified.
He said the first unit was installed last week and it took over the task of heating the building. The other two were installed on Monday.
He noted that the building has been warm lately because the single boiler was not immediately wired into the thermostats in the building, so it was running all the time.
"It is the worst thing that could happen," said committee chair Sherrie Belliveau.
She said the committee would need an update on the cost of the new units, the hot water heater and the cost of installation, which was to be completed Tuesday. Prior to the new system being installed, hot water for City Hall came directly from the boilers, which meant one of the units had to run year-round. The separate hot water heater will eliminate this need.
"(We) are looking to get some help from Wisconsin Public Service for some energy assistance-type funding," Biolo added.
"We will need to know (the exact amount) when we start getting close to that borrowing total," Belliveau said.
Kost noted that a local company, Dahlquist Heating and Cooling, really stepped up to not only keep the remaining boiler working until the new units arrived but also in getting the new ones installed quickly. He said the owner has had as many people on the problem as needed to get it done.
"Dahlquist went above and beyond here," Kost said. "They were up here on a Saturday with me and one time they would have been up here on a Sunday, but they said that even if this (last) one goes down tonight with the cold weather, the heat pumps should take care of it. Anytime we had a question, and I think Jeremy will say the same thing, they were right there answering it."
"That's the best thing about dealing with local people," Belliveau noted.
Kost said the Dahlquist people have been showing Biolo what he needs to do to keep an eye on the new units, although the city plans to invest in an annual maintenance contract.
"First of all, they're newer units, so you'll probably save a ton on gas," Kost said. "And actually, now they install a dirt collector for the water that goes into the boilers, so all that gunk doesn't get into the boilers and eating the boilers out. So it is so much better now, 14, 15 years later."
Not only are the new units smaller then the ones they replaced, they each have higher BTU ratings and are more energy efficient, Wally Dahlquist noted.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at email@example.com.
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