June for Center Project Closing?

Aerial view of the new Center School, which fully opened to students in grades k-5 last September.
Nancy DiGiovanni

By Ann Needle

Though the Center School community is enjoying its new building, the school is not yet completed, officially — and that may need to wait until as late as June.

The Elementary School Building Committee was told Monday night that the damaged pavement in the visitor parking lot may take a while to repair. Currently slated to be fixed during April vacation, the job may take more than that week. If so, the work will need to wait until school is out in June, according to Owner’s Project Manager’s Rep. Neil Joyce.

“But there’s no question it’s defective,” so the town won’t be responsible for the bill, stressed OPM’s Rep. Paul Griffin. Earlier this year, a snowplow accidentally tore up a portion of the visitor lot near the front door.

Since the last ESBC meeting in December, Joyce claimed there have been a few dozen tasks whittled off of the punch list, most of them involving the building exterior.

“We’ve asked [contractor] Michael Brait to finish it up over February vacation, because we don’t want to be sitting here in March, talking about April vacation,” said Joyce.

“It seems like it’s dragging on, which we didn’t want to happen,” remarked ESBC CO-Chair Ellen Sturgis, who agreed that the project should be completely finished by the end of February break.

Architect Lorraine Finnegan offered that, should any items remain after vacation, the ESBC could choose to outsource the remaining work.

Meanwhile, the price for the parking lot repair is not the only work being disputed. However, at an estimated $25,000 to fix, Griffin said the lot was the largest of the project’s items for which he is asserting the town should not be responsible. Griffin reported that he sent an official claim to the bonding company that hired the general contractor, claiming that the town should not be responsible for about $150,000 of the outstanding $750,000 in bills.

With the Massachusetts School Building Authority pressuring project officials to begin wrapping up the bills, Griffin maintained that these invoices should be settled “relatively soon.” Outside of these claims, with the project nearing its end, Griffin maintained the ESBC should not be seeing very many new invoices.

Daily Living Brings Change
Of course, there are a few items that turn up once people start living in a new building. As Center Principal Kevin LaCoste told the ESBC, “We had a couple of events to shake some of those logistic things out of the way.” Apparently, two of these events turned up the need for a few fixes.

LaCoste explained that, during one recent evening, it became clear that the people walking past a meeting being held in the front of the cafeteria/gym to the basketball game in the back were a distraction. With no practical way to re-route the gym traffic away from the cafeteria, Superintendent Michael Wood noted that buying about five large, portable room partitions should do the job of separating these events.
“I’ve already seen about half a dozen times when we could have utilized them,” LaCoste remarked.

The ESBC voted to spend up to $25,000 on the partitions. The only opposing vote came from Lynn Colletti, who asserted that the partitions would be used mainly for community groups after regular school hours.

Other items have attracted watchful eyes. Wood observed, “The double railings [in the visitors’ entrance] are being used as interesting physics experiments.” He explained that some students are racing balls down the sloping railings, which bounce off close to the glass doors — and a fix of some sort to the potential hazard may eventually be in order.

Still, the ESBC seemed to have the project’s end in sight. Sturgis noted that the ESBC cannot officially disband until it gives a final report to the town, which will likely contain newer information than the one it approved for the 2012 Annual Report. She said she is hoping to present the final numbers on spending at Town Meeting.

The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Monday, March 11.