The Richmond Register

January 7, 2014

Frozen coal causes another cancellation at Model

Only second missed full-day since 2009

By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — On Sunday and Monday, social media was abuzz in the Model Laboratory School community about the school’s first full-day weather cancellation since the ice storm of 2009.

With temperatures still in the teens Tuesday, the school was scheduled to reopen after a two-hour delay, but weather conditions created an unexpected obstacle.

Housed in Eastern Kentucky University’s Donovan Building, Model school is located near the end of steam lines that carry heat underground to buildings on campus, said David Williams, EKU’s director of facilities services.

Two boilers, one coal-powered and one fueled by natural gas, produce the steam. However, the coal was simply frozen together Tuesday morning, Williams said.

The coal is conveyed from an outside pit into a chute and to the boiler, he said. This boiler steam system heats most buildings north of the Eastern Bypass, or what some would call the “original part of campus.”

Although personnel were able to get the boiler refueled and the heat back on sooner than expected, Williams said, the Donovan Building, which is nearly 53 years old, would not have been warm enough for children to attend school Tuesday.

The university also has two additional coal-powered boilers that are not functioning, but will be “re-tubed” this summer and ready for next winter, Williams said.

EKU will continue to rely on a combination of coal and natural gas, he said. “We have no plans to abandon coal. I don’t think anyone is hopeful that natural gas prices will remain low. We’re trying to straddle that fence and have both options available to us.”

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.