Petersburg’s school board Tuesday heard that some parts of the fire sprinkler system in the high school and middle school building need to be replaced. That was part of the report from the school’s maintenance department which also highlighted a new cafeteria space and some upgrades on the way for the Wright auditorium.
The school district’s maintenance director Dan Tate reported to the board that the sprinkler problem was discovered during a special inspection of the interior workings of the system.

“It turns it’s part of fire code, the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) code 25,” Tate explained. “It requires pressure tests every three years on certain equipment. We passed those tests without any trouble. We also had not, as far as I could tell, had a five-year inspection done in at least 10 years and possibly a lot longer of the internal workings of our pipes and all the muck and stuff that can develop in those pipes over the years.”

The district has a certified technician do annual inspections on the sprinklers. More specialized investigations of the fire suppression system are required every three and five years. Tate said inspectors found bacteria growth, sludge and sediment caused by condensation in the pipes. He showed the board some photos of the clogged pipes.

Photo courtesy of the Petersburg School District

Photo courtesy of the Petersburg School District

“The crux of it is we do need to get this repaired,” Tate said. “We’re looking at approximately 25,000 dollars. It could be a little bit more. Another thing to note about it is, this was just one small section of the entire expansive pipe system for the sprinkler system, which means five years from now they’re going to go look at somewhere else. They might find similar problems.”
Photo courtesy of the Petersburg School District

Photo courtesy of the Petersburg School District

Inspectors also found some corroded sprinkler heads and a valve that will need to be replaced and other corrosion in the middle and high school sprinklers. Tate said the inspectors found some corrosion in the elementary school pipes but that building had some replacements installed during the renovation project completed in 2014. The high school and middle school buildings were constructed in 1985 and 86.

“Some of those pipes I don’t think any water would flow through those out a sprinkler,” said board member Jay Lister.

“And if it did it would clog the heads,” Tate responded.

“That’s what I was saying,” Lister said. “So that might be the way all of our sprinkler systems are in the whole building?” he asked.

“It’ll affect various areas most likely, not everywhere,” Tate answered.

Tate told the board he hopes to be able to keep spending down this year in the maintenance department and may be able to pay for the repairs out of his budget, depending on the cost. The district could also apply for state grant money to reimburse the work.

Board president Sarah Holmgrain said it was good to find out about the problem before the sprinkler system is needed. Tate wants to do that pipe replacement next summer when students and staff are out of the building. In an email Wednesday, Tate clarified the inspectors did not red-flag the system as non-functioning and were more concerned about the valve that needs replacing than the clogged pipes.

In other maintenance news, Tate reported on the new cafeteria for middle and high school students that’s been built in one of the former classrooms by the high school gym.

“The Viking Café, I think that’s what we’re starting to call our new lunch room over here in the high school is up and running,” Tate said. “We’re working on the finishing touches as they’re serving food in there. Trim work is being finished up. Hopefully we’ll have some electrical outlets tomorrow.”
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A second phase of the project will add a catering-style kitchen next door to the cafeteria. Students are eating lunches in the new space this month. The district hopes to use that space for concessions during sporting events and to feed visiting teams.
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Tate also outlined some improvements on the way for the Wright Auditorium. The performance space is getting 1,500 dollars worth of new rigging line used to control the curtains and back drops on the stage. The Mitkof Mummers and Mitkof Dance Troupe are helping with that upgrade.

There’s also a new 32-foot motorized screen the Northern Nights Theater is putting in and that’s expected to arrive this week. That’s costing the theater around 10,000 dollars. The school district and the Petersburg Community Foundation though the arts council have each contributed $3000 for that screen.
The auditorium is also getting its seats redone. The theater is contributing 10,000 dollars for the material, foam, springs and hardware to re-upholster 350 seats. The work will be done by school district employees and volunteers.