Weekend power surge causes damage to two Midway schools

Lauren Williams Staff Writer

August 20, 2013

A power surge over the weekend in the Midway district — the result of a wreck on Saturday that took down a utility pole that serves both Midway High and Midway Elementary — has led to a variety of losses at each facility.

In an update to the Sampson County Board of Education during Tuesday morning’s work session, Anthony Vann, executive director of auxiliary services for the school system, shared that “a lack of power then a surge”seems to be at the root of all the problems.

Vann explained that the lack of power burned some electrical components while the surge of power caused other components to explode.

In addition to smoke filling the building, Vann reported that, as of Tuesday morning, the high school had lost about 200 light ballasts, its scoreboard in the gym, a freezer in the cafeteria, two waste-water pumps, pumps for the school’s greenhouses, four 30 horse-power motor drives, and two 75 horse-power motor drives which cool the air that moves through the school.

Vann noted that these “chillers” were the “largest ticket items.”

While the fire alarm at Midway High is working, the same cannot be said at Midway Elementary. Vann explained that until the alarm is repaired the school system is working with the local fire departments, placing individuals in each wing of the elementary school to serve as fire watchers so teachers and staff can continue to prepare this week for the start of school next Monday.

According to Vann, there were features in place at each school that were supposed to shut down in the event of a power surge and keep such damage from happening, but those features failed to work. He shared that action is being taken to figure out why those features did not work and to make improvements so they will work in the future.

Board chairman Telfair Simpson asked how the computers and other such technology was affected at each school.

John Gilmore, director of technology and accountability, reported that 90 computers and 20 printers were lost at the high school while 10 printers and 20 computers were lost at the elementary school, estimating the total loss of technology between the two schools at around $90,000.

Vann estimated other losses at around $150,000, not including the $90,000 estimate from Gilmore. He noted that the other loses should remain around his estimate as long as the high school’s chillers do not have to be replaced.

Simpson also questioned whether or not the damage would cause any delays in starting school on Aug. 26 in those schools.

Superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker said he did not expect any delays while Vann pointed out that “we can move air throughout the building but it’s not chilled.”

However, Vann explained that that should not pose a problem since the weather on Saturday was cool and the facilities were already at a comfortable temperature. He also noted that due to those lower temperatures, at least one of the chillers should not have been running but should have been “sitting dormant,” saving it from damage and therefore leaving it operational.

The Sampson County Board of Education will meet for its regular board meeting on Monday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. in the Central Office Auditorium.

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at