EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 14, 2013

Janitors cash in at high school

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.”

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