State of emergency declared at school following gas leaks

Published 12:58 am Wednesday, November 22, 2017


NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams School Board declared a state of emergency at Morgantown Middle School Tuesday after the discovery Monday night of several gas leaks during a basketball game. The board voted Tuesday to approve approximately $90,000 to purchase materials and labor to fix the leaks, many of which were around the school’s gymnasium.

The initial leak was so strong, Operations Manager Larnell Ford said, that a parent at the game who works for Atmos Energy called to get the gas supply turned off immediately.

Email newsletter signup

When Ford, personnel from Atmos and the district’s maintenance department workers went to check the leak Tuesday morning, Ford said they realized they were dealing with several leaks along straight pipes near the school.

“We had so many … we were going out be there all night,” Ford said. “The line was just rotting. It’s been in the ground nearly 60 years.”

Ford said several whole pipes need replacing alongside several gas feeders and regulators.

No students were on school grounds for the Thanksgiving holiday, and Ford said he hoped the repairs could be made in time for school to return on Monday.

“It’s a holiday, so we might hit some hold-ups,” Ford said “But that is our hope.”

The pipe necessary to replace existing structure had to be specially ordered, Ford said, which delays the repair.

The construction will replace gas lines all across the school, Superintendent Fred Butcher said.

In the Tuesday school board meeting, board secretary Thelma Newsome said when she was principal of Morgantown Middle School, several smaller gas leaks were handled.

“We’ve had leaks in Morgantown forever,” Newsome said. “Now at least we know where it’s coming from and it can be fixed.”

Under normal circumstances where no emergency exists, the board would request proposals for a repair and replacement project this large, Ford said.

The existence of an emergency, however, justifies the use of the funds without going through the bidding process.

Instead, the companies that were onsite, Atmos Energy and Natchez Heating and Cooling, provided the estimated cost of repair.

“This is something we didn’t want to play with,” Ford said.