By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — School custodians worked hundreds of hours of overtime this summer on support jobs for the high school construction project totaling nearly $100,000, but school officials said contracting the work from outside would have been much more expensive.
Ten of the district’s custodial staff logged in more than 100 overtime hours each, and many others had dozens of hours, from June 3 to Sept. 4, totaling $94,074.30 in overtime pay, according to school records. Nearly $25,000 of that was work for groups such as the Greater Lawrence Educational Collaborative and was not paid out of the School Department budget.
Bruce Stella, director of facilities at the School Department, said in-house staff was used for supporting work at the high school because they would cost less than hiring outside workers, who would be paid at the higher federal prevailing wage, and because they had to be very flexible to work with and around the construction crew’s schedule.
“We were doing a lot of moving, a lot of reorganization, moving materials into the field house, the rink, (Pleasant Valley School) to make room for the contractor,” Stella said.
Custodial staff moved teachers’ things from the south wing into the north wing and to Central School, which houses the freshmen for the duration of the project, last summer. This past summer, they moved everything from the north wing to the field house while demolition started on the north wing and work completed on the south wing. They then moved teachers’ things to the new classrooms.
“In this phase there are significant amount of existing furniture, equipment, technology devices, books and teacher materials that are the school department’s responsibility to move into the new class rooms and set up,” Superintendent Judith Scannell said. “Moving costs are not in Consigli’s contract. Much of the work had to be done in the off hours so the contractors could have access to finish the spaces during the day. Continuous moving through out the summer emptying and reloading the building as well as the K-8 buildings (used for storage) occurred.”
New furniture for the south wing, some of which will not be used until the entire building is completed next year, had to be stored first in the high school field house, and then moved to Pleasant Valley School once that building was available.
The custodians, including the craftsmen on staff, did not perform any construction work, which according to permit must be done by Consigli.
Stella said custodians also worked on the four grammar schools, including drywall work and replacing tiling.
“(Overtime) is more than usual because of the extra work needed of the custodians,” Stella said.
Of the $94,000 of overtime, $69,316.23 was paid out of the schools budget, according to records provided by the School Department. Ten custodians racked up more than 100 hours each, with one clocking 194 hours. Most of those 10 custodians are assigned to the high school.
The $98 million renovation and expansion of Methuen High School is about halfway finished. The south wing was renovated and a new fine arts wing and cafeteria was added. Most of it opened to students Sept. 4. Construction crews are working on the north wing now, with the project on schedule to be completed next summer.
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