By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — Members of the committee overseeing the $98 million high school project found out about a mold problem in the building’s new auditorium through the press months later, raising questions about the contractor and project manager communication.
At least two members, Joe Leone and City Councilor Ronald Marsan, complained to Trident, the city’s project management company, and Consigli Construction at the Building Committee’s last hearing in August about not being told mold was discovered in the auditorium after water entered the space during heavy rains last spring.
Trident and Consigli had the chance to respond to their concerns the next day. When a pipe fitting failed in a corridor in the high school on Thursday, Aug. 29, committee members were kept abreast of the failure, the water leak and the weekend-long cleanup effort via email. The fitting was repaired, dry wall and ceiling tiles were replaced and the area cleaned up in time for teachers to arrive the following Tuesday.
Students started in the newly renovated half of the building last Wednesday.
About a half-dozen members, including Mayor Stephen Zanni, said in interviews that they were not told about mold in the auditorium’s dry wall until either a reporter from The Eagle-Tribune called two weeks ago to ask about the remediation or until it appeared in print on Aug. 21.
“I didn’t hear anything until I read about it in paper,” Zanni said.
The issue was not that Consigli did the work without prior approval, members said, but rather that they did not inform the Building Committee about the work, which Consigli will pay for itself.
Member George Kazanjian said he did not hear about it either, but was satisfied with Consigli’s and Trident’s response at the meeting Aug. 28. “They felt they fixed (the mold) and that was it and it was okay,” Kazanjian said. “But they apologized and said it would not happen again.”
Gino Baroni, owner of Trident, said mold was discovered in the auditorium after water entered the unfinished space this spring during heavy rains. The bottom two feet of dry wall was removed and an industrial hygienist was on hand to test the area. All areas contaminated or suspected of being contaminated would be certified before use. The city will not pay for that work, he said.
Despite what committee member Robert Vogler called “a blip,” they said they are very satisfied with how the contractor handled their concern and how they are performing on the project as a whole.
“Overall, I would say we had one little blip and everything else has been good in terms of communication and keeping us informed,” Vogler said.
Earlier this year, committee members, including Vogler and Marsan, questioned Consigli and Baroni about being presented with change orders for work performed months before. Consigli and Trident responded by providing more detailed explanations of changes and up-to-date figures of all the projects’ budgets.
Consigli came on last year after the city terminated its contract with Dimeo Construction because cost estimates shot up by $6 million almost immediately. Consigli signed with the city in May 2012 and began demolition and construction on the south wing of the high school the following month when school ended.
Since then, Building Committee members said they have been very pleased with their work. The project is still on schedule, with the renovated and expanded southern half of the building mostly opening on time this week, and on track to stay within the $98 million budget.
Consigli began demolition of the interior of the north wing this summer, and work is scheduled to wrap up next summer in time for the entire building to open for the 2014-15 school year.
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