EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 14, 2013

New high school auditorium delayed

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — Opening the new high school performing arts center will be pushed back until early next year, nearly four months after the newly renovated and expanded south wing opened for students.

A delay in delivery of rigging materials and catwalks, among other things, prompted the change, officials said. The delay will keep the high school band and choral programs located next door at Timony Grammar School, and means any high school performances will have to find another venue. Otherwise, disruption would be minimal, said Mayor Stephen Zanni.

“Delivery for the high school auditorium is mid-January because of material delivery concerns,” Superintendent Judith Scannell said in an email. “Through discussions with the team, we all agreed it is best to have a fully completed facility to open up.”

Work on the 750-seat auditorium and performance space, which is surrounded by music and choral rooms in a new fine arts wing at the high school, was slowed earlier this year to prioritize completion of classroom space, a project official said. Opening the auditorium was pushed to October or November.

“In order to deliver on time, something had to give,” said Gino Baroni, owner of Trident, the project management company overseeing the construction project for the city. “We talked about it and the educational programs are more important, and we delayed (the auditorium) until October, November, December.”

Then just before Labor Day, a pipe fitting burst in a hallway, scrambling plans for finishing the new section in time for the start of school on Sept. 4. Construction crews and school custodial employees worked over the weekend, on Labor Day and on Sept. 3 to clean up the mess, repair and repaint the walls and replace ceiling tiles damaged to keep the opening on schedule.

“We pulled a lot of resources and that affected us a bit,” Baroni said.

Work was finished in time for the start of school.

Last spring, water entered the auditorium space during heavy rains, leading to the removal of the bottom two feet of drywall as a precaution against mold. An industrial hygienist was on hand for the work. That job will not be charged to the city, Baroni has said.

School and city officials overseeing the $98 million renovation and expansion of Methuen high school have prioritized keeping the project both on schedule and on budget throughout.

The first contractor, Dimeo Construction, was fired at the end of 2011 after its estimates for the project jumped by $6 million. Consigli Construction was hired in May 2012 and immediately dove into the work. Despite the delay, officials say the project is on schedule and forecast to come in at the original $98 million price tag.

Renovation of the south wing and the construction of an addition that included the auditorium, fine arts classrooms and a cafeteria went nearly according to schedule, with the classroom space and the cafeteria opening for school last month.

Crews currently are gutting and renovating the north wing, which is to be finished next summer for the start of school in September 2014.

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