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Boiler woes upset phones


The problem that shut down phones at Montana State University-Northern on Sunday night and Monday morning was a combination of heating and cooling problems, a Northern official said.

A problem with the boiler system at Cowan Hall combined with a burnt-out motor in an air conditioning system in the room housing Northern's phone system, Rob Harrison, Northern's physical plant director, said Monday. Increased temperature in the room caused a breaker for the phone system to blow at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, shutting down the phone system until about noon Monday.

"It's real unfortunate that all of those things happened together," Harrison said.

The physical plant's recording equipment showed the temperature in the room with the phone equipment peaked at 97 degrees, he said. A room next door peaked at 78 degrees.

Bob Bentz, director of information technology services at Northern, ssaid the phone system has a battery backup, but it only will maintain the system for about six or seven hours.

The boiler system in Cowan also supplies the Vande Bogart Library and the university gymnasium, but those buildings have separate temperature controls. Cowan was the only building that experienced temperature changes, Harrison said.

The malfunction was on a sensor that shuts the boiler down when the temperature outside goes above a certain level, he said.

The high temperature in the information technology services room would have been uncomfortable but wouldn't have caused any problems in a room that doesn't have sensitive electronic equipment, Harrison said. And if the air conditioner had been working, the phone service wouldn't have shut down.

"If one or any of those things would not have happened we would have been fine," Harrison said. "The good news is we don't have to live with this system much longer."

A contractor will be on campus by the end of the month to start working on upgrading the heating and air conditioning system at Cowan, a Montana University System project.

The new system will use groundwater cooling for Cowan Hall. Wells were drilled for the system north of the building last year.


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