Raising the roof over school repairs
HANSON — A resident’s question over whether the contractor of the Indian Head School roof project would be penalized for not completing work before the first day of school devolved into a heated exchange with Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young Tuesday, Sept. 15.
The flare-up of tempers came during the usually routine subcommittee reports — at the conclusion of an otherwise smooth session in which the warrant for next month’s special Town Meeting was approved and signed. When the dust-up cleared, the board adjourned before hearing three remaining subcommittee reports.
Selectmen Bill Scott and Kenny Mitchell made efforts to curtail the exchange and Selectman James McGahan defended the work Young has dedicated to the school and other projects.
Resident John Barata, 43 Meadow Lane, later apologized to the board for his part in the argument.
“I think we just got into a discussion about discussions,” Barata said. “There’s no harm, no foul … I just have a weird voice, I guess I sound mean all the time. I apologize.”
Young offered an apology, too.
“I’m only human,” he said. “I can get pushed to the edge, to a point.”
School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes was asked to repeat his report on the roof project given at that board’s Sept. 9 meeting. [See page 9]
“There’s been a few bumps in the road, but they’ve been worked out,” he said. “It seems like it’s gone fairly smooth.”
“It’s the first inter-municipal agreement that I’ve been involved in and it’s worked out quite well,” Young said.
Hayes again explained that the main outstanding work is to the smoke hatch, which required specially manufactured parts, and gutters and downspouts. During work a main roof beam was discovered to have been installed during original construction 50 years ago despite being run over and bent by heavy equipment.
“I know there has been some talk recently about it not being completed in a timely fashion,” Hayes said of the hatch delay. “But there has been some changes to some of what’s going on. It was backed up by letters from the manufacturer saying that these have been ordered but they’re taking more time than they thought because of the changes.”
Barata asked why contracting firm Gale Engineering was not being held liable, as there was a delay in starting the job that affected the completion of work.
“How come they didn’t start immediately after school?” Barata asked. “Why did they wait three to four weeks to get it done? Now we’re into the school year. I personally feel we should be hammering them for $1,000 — or whatever — a day. We had a hard deadline.”
“The job is 98-percent complete,” Young had said earlier in the meeting. “Nobody was put out, there were no safety issues, the fence came down.”
He added the local officials bear some responsibility for the delay because ridge vent colors were not ordered until the third week in July.
Hayes said there was also a delay in the DEP’s inspection of the slate roof, on which glue containing asbestos was used in the past, and that a meeting within the next five weeks would decide any financial penalties. Young explained penalties can only be levied in cases of “willful neglect” on the part of the contractor.
“Starting four weeks late doesn’t classify [as] negligent?” Barata retorted.
Young countered that roofers were “working their tails off” in searing heat and humidity and complained that there has been a lot of armchair quarterbacking on Facebook, to which Barata took exception, sparking the heated exchange.
“This isn’t Facebook, I’m sitting right here asking a question,” Barata said.
“I’m giving him the answer and he doesn’t want to accept it,” Young said, tossing the thick contract book across the table. “It’s in here — read it.”
McGahan moved to diffuse the situation, explaining that Young has been under a lot of pressure from the number of school repair committees he chairs.
“Don’t apologize for me,” Young said. “I’ve got every reason in the world to be angry about this and I’m tired of hearing about it.”
“I’m not apologizing,” McGahan said. “My personal vote would be no, I would not penalize them and you guys know what a hard person I am — and have been — on the schools.”
He asked people to consider how long the roof leaked and why no previous board had been held accountable for that. The current board, he added, has overseen repairs to the roof, the damage caused at Hanson Middle School by a waste pipe clog, installation of new fire alarms “before Whitman,” and contribution to new computers and a hot water heater at the high school.
Resident Kimberley King, 87 Glenwood Place, said she was “absolutely disgusted” by the exchange.
“This isn’t about who’s right or who’s wrong or who’s worked harder,” she said. “These displays continue to divide the town of Hanson.”
King lauded the positive efforts of the Selectmen and School Committee to work together as a very positive step, but that gets lost amid angry displays at meetings.