Crews took a big step forward Friday in improving the heating system for the Montana State Capitol Complex.
A crane lifted 9,600-pound metal boilers high into the air and over a phone line so they could be installed at the complex’s main plant. It’s part of a $2 million project to replace two boilers installed in 1968 with three newer and more efficient boilers.
These boilers will provide heating for the State Capitol and several nearby buildings – the Capitol Annex, the Old Livestock Building, the boiler plant itself and half of the Mitchell Building. They will use heated water instead of steam, allowing the state to save about 1 million gallons of water per year.
Steve Baiamonte, who manages the Montana Department of Administration’s General Services Division, said the old boilers lasted about 20 years longer than they were expected to, and they needed to be replaced.
“Had we had a catastrophic failure of those boilers in the middle of winter, that’s 23 percent of the Capitol Complex that would lose its heat source,” he said. “That would create irreparable damage.”
Baiamonte said this type of boiler has already been installed in several other state buildings – like the Scott Hart Building, which hosts offices for the state departments of Justice, Agriculture and Livestock. He said they have already seen improvements.
“We’re able to control temperature much more efficiently, so in the long run it keeps our buildings more comfortable and it also makes it that much more affordable,” he said.
General Services is responsible for about 40 state-owned buildings around the Helena area. The boiler project is one of two major facility improvements they are focusing on this summer. In the other, they are making upgrades at 28 sites to bring them into compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act. The most notable was at the Capitol, where they completely re-engineered the south oval to improve access.
“By meeting ADA, it makes it a much safer, more accessible campus really for everyone,” said Baiamonte.
He thanked the state employees, visitors and others who’ve been affected by these infrastructure projects for their patience.
“It’s been a tough summer, with a lot of infrastructure taking place, and we just appreciate their patience as we try to make the Capitol a safer, better place to be,” he said.
Baiamonte said General Services is spending about the same amount on infrastructure this year as in a typical year, but that they’re using the money for two large projects instead of a number of smaller, less noticeable improvements.