EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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March 10, 2013

Lots more work needed at Guilmette School

City seeks $3M more to finish job required by mold cleanup

LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua is seeking to borrow $3 million to finish refurbishing the Guilmette School which was found to be infested with mold in 2010.

The amount is six times the original $500,000 estimated cost of the project, which has become entangled in lawsuits and counterclaims, and would add to the millions already billed to eradicate the mold and rebuild the school’s interior.

Already the city has spent $531,000 on lawyers, architects and engineers — including the $500-an-hour fees a Boston law firm was billing the city. The city still owes up to $1.9 million more to the five environmental cleanup contractors who scoured Guilmette’s air ducts, ripped out soggy wallboards and sanitized hundreds of desks and other furniture.

The school district has shared in the cost of the work. Chris Markuns, a spokesman for state-appointed Superintendent/Receiver Jeff Riley, did not respond to a request for information about what the district has spent so far and whether it will contribute to the cost of the work still needed.

The news that so much remains to be done was a setback last week for a city still struggling to regain its financial footing. Also last week, federal officials announced that a $6.6 million grant that allowed the city to hire up to 38 firefirefights for two years will not be renewed when it runs out in August.

The Guilmette was closed from October 2010 to April 2011 while the mold was eradicated and the interior was patched up sufficiently to allow its 1,300 elementary and middle school students and staff to return from other schools around the city where they were relocated while the work was underway.

As the school reopened, Marylou Bergeron, who was then acting school superintendent, said custodians would do much of the remaining reconstruction over the summer of 2011 and that the work would cost about $500,000.

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