Propane Update

The administration would like to thank you for your patience this winter as we faced encounters with snow, ice, colder than normal temperatures and challenges in propane supply. We know that combined, these challenges have made it more difficult for everyone.

The facility service team has been able to secure propane from an additional vendor and our contracted vendor has confirmed they are back to receiving normal deliveries.

In the communication earlier this week, it was communicated that conservation changes/restrictions would be implemented through 11 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015.

I am pleased to announce that through securing additional propane, conservation on campus and next week’s forecast for warmer temperatures, we will be returning campus operations back to normal on Sunday, March 1, 2015.

• By Monday, March 2nd the temperature in all academic and administrative buildings will return to normal settings. At that time, the relaxed dress code will no longer be in effect and employees are expected to return to the appropriate professional dress code.
• Changes in the residence hall temperature will begin over the weekend. It will take a day or two for the buildings to fully return to the typical 70 degree setting.
• Larsen Student Union will reopen on Sunday under normal hours and the Union Café will resume serving the full menu, including hot food.
• Showers in Sollenberger Sports Center will be available for students and employees who use those athletic facilities.
• Over the weekend, the swimming pool temperature will be increased. The pool will reopen for normal operations on Monday, March 2.
• Climenhaga Homestead and McBeth Advancement Center will reopen on Monday, March 2.
• The shower conservation request will no longer be in effect, though the College always encourages ongoing conservation efforts.

– Kathie Shafer, vice president of operations


Propane Conversation Follow Up and Q&A

There has been a lot of active conversation on campus and on social media since yesterday’s announcement about the College’s current propane shortage and its related voluntary conservation efforts. As a Christian college community, we have appreciated the expressions of collaboration, understanding and support as we seek to responsibly tackle the challenges of the extreme cold weather together during the next several days.

We have also observed the need for some additional clarification and information. Below is a Q&A that the College has created to try to answer some of the questions that we have been hearing.

Is the propane shortage occurring because the College didn’t order enough propane or isn’t willing to buy an additional supply?

The current challenge that Messiah is facing is related to the reduced supply of propane in the Northeast in the volume at which the campus uses this source of energy. It is not a cost or planning issue.

Messiah College annually enters a contract to purchase at least 500,000 gallons of propane a year. This quantity is based on past annual usage and average winter temperatures and has historically been enough supply. Without this annual contract, the College might actually have experienced more severe issues when the region has supply-and-demand issues. The challenge this year (and last) is rooted in record-cold temperatures which has affected the availability to our supplier from their suppliers to get propane to Messiah College at our contracted levels.

Why can’t the College just purchase propane from other regional suppliers?

The College works with various larger propane vendors that can help meet our needs of 30,000 to 40,000 gallons per week. In fact, due to the regional shortage, we are already supplementing our current propane supply with some of these alternate vendors. However, as an institutional customer, the College has volume demands and complex liability, safety/compliance issues that residential customers do not face. Many of the propane companies in the area cannot supply propane in volume enough to meet our needs. Most local firms can meet the needs of residential homes which get a typical range of 200-300 gallons for a month. By comparison, the College uses more propane in a week then they may typically distribute in a month.

It is important to know that Messiah’s director of facility services and the vice president of operations have been, and continue to be in, active ongoing conversations with suppliers in the area who can meet the volume and institutional liability/safety needs of the College.

Is it true there’s no hot water on campus?

It is not accurate that there is no hot water on campus; currently all campus facilities have hot water.

How is the College going to regulate its request that students and employees living on campus take shorter showers?

The College’s request that students and employees residents help to conserve energy by reducing shower lengths, being mindful of other hot water usage, etc., is a voluntary, short-term conservation measure. The College in no way is regulating this request, but rather, asking for cooperation.

By asking students and employees to voluntary conserve their hot water usage in the short-term, it is our goal to ensure continued hot water availability for everyone through the next several days we anticipate a return to normal temperatures and supply.

I’ve heard that the College is not currently offering hot food service on campus. Is that accurate?

No, that is not accurate. The College continues to provide hot food service and menus in Lottie Nelson Dining Room and The Falcon. The only short-term change communicated in the College’s announcement was that the Union Café in the Larsen Student Union will temporarily serve a more limited menu of deli and grab-and-go items (due to the significant amount of propane that is used in the union.) So this temporary menu change in the Union Café allows the College to conserve significant energy while at the same time continuing food service to students and employees in that location.

Will these conservation measures extend past the Saturday, Feb. 28 timeframe communicated in the original email?

At this time, the College anticipates that its current conservation efforts will be sufficient to carry us through the Saturday, Feb. 28 timeframe communicated in the original announcement. If the temperatures increase as predicted this weekend, the amount of propane we use will decrease and we should be able to bring campus operations back to normal. This should also better regulate the supply and demand in the region as well.

If there is any change to this timeframe, the College will communicate as soon as possible to students and employees.


Propane shortage and restrictions

Today the College was informed by our propane supplier that the shortage we announced yesterday to campus has become even more severe due to the prolonged, record-cold temperatures in the Northeast. As a result, our supplier has reduced delivery levels to our campus and has not been able to completely fill our propane tanks. We are in ongoing communication with our propane vendor, and they are doing all that they can to meet our needs. The College is also working hard to purchase additional propane through alternate vendors, but the shortage in this entire region of the U.S. is making that difficult.

Messiah, like other residential and institutional propane customers in our region, is being asked to voluntarily conserve its energy usage. The College’s goal is to keep our campus community safe and operational until temperatures increase and propane delivery can resume its normal levels. To this end, the following conservation changes/restrictions will be in place through 11 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28:

Centrally controlled building temperatures: We will continue adjusting all centrally controlled room temperatures at a 68-degree hold during the hours of 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., and at 60 degrees between 7 p.m.- 7 a.m. (with the exception of the Larsen Student Union; see below).

  • Due to these changes, employees are permitted to dress during this time in appropriate casual wear, i.e., jeans are acceptable, Messiah College logo wear, other office-appropriate casual clothing (in keeping with your professional responsibilities for each day). If you have questions, please consult with your supervisor.

Larsen Student Union: Effective immediately, the hours of operation for the student union are changed to 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. (during which time a temperature hold of 68 degrees will be in effect).

  • Food service in the Union Café will temporarily be limited to salads, soups, deli and grab-and-go menu items only (no hot food service will be available).
  • The Division of Student Affairs and Dining Services will be in communication with their employees and students who are assigned to that building to discuss the impact on their work schedule.

Sollenberger Sports Center: Effective immediately, there will be no use of the showers in the sports center for students and employees who use those athletic facilities.

  • Note: Exception is granted for student-athletes training on Messiah’s wrestling team and for visiting athletes who will be on campus for the wrestling invitational tournament this weekend.

Swimming pool closed: Effective immediately, the swimming pool and diving pool will be closed for all college-related and external activities.

Climenhaga Homestead and McBeth Advancement Center: No new reservations will be taken for the Climenhaga Homestead Guest House and the employees in the adjoining McBeth Advancement Center will be temporarily relocated.

Shower conservation: Effective immediately, all students and employees who live on campus are being asked to avoid running hot water unnecessarily and to restrict their showers to three minutes or less to conserve hot water usage.

Preliminary forecasts predict that the outside temperatures will begin to moderate early next week, and it is our hope that our energy supply and operations can return to normal. In the interim, all staff and students are reminded that portable space heaters are prohibited for use in our campus buildings due to their severe safety/fire threat.

The College is grateful for the patience, understanding and partnership of all students and employees as we work through this unprecedented month of extreme temperatures and the energy shortage it has created. Thank you for working together during the next several days to conserve and meet this challenge as a campus community.