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Lightning damages Wheelock chimney

OBSERVER Photo by Anthony Dolce Shown is the chimney at Wheelock School that was recently damaged by a lightning strike, forcing the school into making emergency repairs.

A few weeks ago, the Fredonia Central School District had a peculiar problem that fell into their lap at the Wheelock Central School site. During that particular week, the weather featured heavy rain and lightning, and originally the district didn’t see a problem. However, as a school custodian walked around the Wheelock campus, loose bricks were noticed next to the building in a parking area.

“We started to wonder where those came from,” said Fredonia Superintendent Dr. Bradley Zilliox. “When you looked up at the chimney, it became obvious something had happened.”

When they started to think about how that occurred, the district put together that most likely, lightning had struck that spot on the chimney, causing those bricks to knock loose. The school had isolated that chimney as an area of improvement, regardless of the lightning strike, and the school brought in a company that specializes in chimneys.

“It turns out the chimney was getting older, and we might have to do some work to it,” Zilliox said. “In their mind and professional opinion, the chimney was deemed unsafe, and they made a couple different recommendations to us around taking it down and having it replaced, while making sure there wasn’t any part of the building that was dangerous.”

With students on the way in the coming months from the lightning strike, Dr. Zilliox said that the timing was important to get it done as soon as possible. After looking into a couple different options, the school architect recommended they look for emergency building approval and work through the Capital Project process.

“This ensures aid is available to us back to the district,” Dr. Zilliox said. “That’s the path we took.”

The estimated costs of the project include $52,000 in stabilization fees, $67,000 in demolition, and $15,000 in architectural fees. The motion to proceed with the Emergency Capital Project was unanimously approved by the Fredonia Board of Education.

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