Taking the Long View: Facilities Director Alani Outlines School Building Needs for 6 to 80 Years

When it comes to long-range planning for Bedford’s school building needs, the Facilities Department tries to eliminate as much guesswork as possible.

There’s a six-year plan, developed annually with the Capital Expenditure Committee.

Facilities Director Taissir Alani told the School Committee at a capital expense briefing Tuesday that he also maintains a 15-year plan.

But wait – there’s more. Alani also has developed a 25-year plan, and an 80-year plan. “We assume a building is good for 80 years and we start from there,” he explained, projecting replacement schedules for all components during that life cycle. So windows will be replaced once, the boiler three times, and the roof four times.

“Have we given you a lifetime contract yet, Taissir?” asked an admiring committee member Dan Brosgol. “I’ll be here to finish the 80-year plan,” Alani cracked.

The Facilities Department was created more than 20 years ago as an interdepartmental agency, managing all school and municipal buildings and their workforces.

Sarah Scoville, chair of the School Committee, asked about the impact of recent price increases on the projections. Alani acknowledged that equipment is more expensive. He explained that his long-range calculations incorporate a compounded 3 percent annual increase, so over 15 years he expects “it will really wash out.”

Julie Kirrane, finance director for the schools, noted that technology, furniture, and office copiers are on the capital spending cycle, along with flooring, interior painting, custodial equipment, and space modifications for programming.

Alani presented photographs detailing various completed maintenance projects, such as middle school classroom and door trim painting. He noted that the department is trying a new flooring product that is more durable and requires less maintenance.

Much of the discussion focused on upcoming replacements tailored to meet the town’s NetZero emissions goals.

Alani noted that two 900-gallon gas-fired water heaters at the middle school will be replaced by four 100-gallon heaters powered electrically.

The biggest expenses in the six-year plan are for boiler replacement in the schoolhouses. Current plans call for replacement of the three high-school boilers beginning in fiscal year 2025, for a total cost of more than $9.5 million. Alani said he is considering beginning the replacement schedule with Davis School, because he wants more time to consider other design options at BHS.

“The NetZero plan changes the whole dynamic of changing boilers,” Alani told the committee. It involves an upgrade of the entire heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system.

At the micro level, he said, is the classroom unit ventilator, which handles both heat and ventilation. Those will be replaced with an electric component, he said.

Brosgol asked about fitting the buildings for solar energy. Those plans coincide with roof replacements, the director said, beginning with Davis and Lane Schools in fiscal year 2026. He noted that federal and state financial incentives for solar energy have dropped over the past few years.

He added that there also was consideration of parking lot canopies fitted with solar panels at Davis School and behind the library. But after reviewing results of a study, he said, “as much as I love solar, there was really no incentive, no financial gain to it.”

Alani reported that plans for energy management systems, planned for several years at all four schools, have been envisioned for more than 20 years. They would provide staff the ability to schedule and control heating and cooling remotely. Alani also reported on plans for security systems in all schools in fiscal years 2024 and 2027.

The director outlined a study about a proposed “microgrid” serving the central campus. This would provide “resiliency” in case of a power outage, supplying electricity for up to three days. “We have the details, the cost, the entire package,” Alani said. The $8 million cost could be offset by a $5 million state share if the grant is approved.

He also outlined new state requirements for elevator doors to provide more safety for firefighters. This mandate will have to be added to the capital plan.

School Committee Chair Sarah Scoville lauded Alani’s output, particularly in response to the pandemic. The director replied, “I have a wonderful staff,” and also credited the School Committee, Select Board, Superintendent of Schools, Town Manager, and residents.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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