WHITMAN – Voters may be asked at a special Town Meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7, to consider the expense needed to repair the new section of the Duval Elementary School roof. The Town Meeting would be called in any event to approve collective bargaining agreements concluded or expected to be complete by that time.
Before that happens, the town’s Buildings, Facilities and Capital Expenditures Committee will have to prioritize school capital projects, which must also be approved by the Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen, according to Town Administrator Frank Lynam, who chairs the facilities panel.
“Whatever we do at Duval, the money we’ve voted previously is not enough, so we’re going to have to go before the Selectmen and the Town Meeting,” Lynam said after the meeting. At this point he is uncertain when that decision will be made.
“We don’t have the room in the levy to pay for it, so it has to be a debt exclusion,” he said.
Lynam said the available options include moving forward with immediate repairs in order to reduce leaks or to address the “significant issues” with the construction of that section of the roof, traced by Gale Engineering Associates of Weymouth, to design flaws. All of the problems are concentrated in the newer portion of the building. Repairing those significant issues could cost about $1 million.
Selectman Dan Salvucci, who also serves on the building committee urged the panel during discussions Sept. 14 to “don’t piecemeal it, get it done,” even if other school building projects have to wait.
“Where there’s water, there’s mold,” he said.
The Duval roof leaks, he stressed, are placing children in harm’s way. Lynam agreed.
Members of the committee discussed the matter along with other school repair needs on the matrix at its Thursday, Sept. 14 meeting with members of the WHRSD and Stewart. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner, District Business Services Director Christine Suckow and Facilties Director Ernest Sandland also attended the meeting.
The section of the Duval roof in question dates to 1999, and is two years short of the 20-year window required by the Mass. School Building Authority for any core repair reimbursement – and it has so far had 42 locations with “active leaks” during wind-driven rains.
The town voted $335,000 at Town Meeting two years ago to assess the condition of the roof and make the necessary repairs.
“There was a question at that point as to how extensive the work would be and whether or not [that money] was going to do the job,” Lynam said during the discussion. Gale, which had worked on roof repair projects at Hanson’s Maquan and Indian Head schools was asked to evaluate conditions at Duval.
Gale’s conclusion was that the wall systems in the area are in failure mode and “the primary cause of water getting into your building right now is there is no flashing around your windows,” according to the firm’s Consultant Director of Building Enclosures Design & Consulting Edward Stewart.
The immediate repair would require new windows and would not address the systemic issue. Ice damming has also caused problems, most notably in the winter of 2015.
“Let’s just say this isn’t necessarily going to be an easy fix,” Lynam said after reviewing Gale’s report with Assistant Town Administrator Lisa Green.
Ever since the original construction in 1999, there have been periodic leaks which have been occurring in the building but in 2015, they had a tremendous amount of damage – over $100,000 worth of damage done to the library, Stewart said.
“What still shocks me to this day is this is not difficult construction,” Stewart said. “This is pretty common construction and people still mess it up.
Lynam asked if the construction methods used on the 1999 project were acceptable to industry standards.
“No,” Stewart said. “It goes back to the original design.”
School officials are wary of waiting for a May Town Meeting with another winter of uncertain weather ahead of them.
“One more winter like  I can’t imagine,” Gilbert-Whitner said. “Even before the ice dams I can remember sitting in the conference room in the office and just watching water pour down from the light. The ice dam issue was something like I have never seen before.”
The extreme weather across the country in the past month shows that no one can predict what can happen next.
Prices for the project can be affected by the bid climate, Stewart said, explaining that December and January bids are more economical than those received later in the year, especially for windows. Getting the design finished for March construction bids would be required for the work to be done the summer of 2018, he said.
“Either we fix it or we don’t fix it,” said Salvucci. “The problem is, if we follow your suggestion and we get it all fixed, we have the Conley and the Middle School to look at, too.”
“This is an area where we have to look at each project on its own merits,” Lynam said. “We have to set priorities.”
Gilbert-Whitner agreed that priorities have to be set, but noted the urgency.
“If this was your home, you would not let it go,” she said. “This is staring you in the face and if you can fix it and for the next 30 years have it be as good as the old side of the building, you’ve done something.”
Sandland agreed that the funds already voted by the town are not enough, adding the need now is to “figure out how we can get this project off the ground” and repair the problems.
“We didn’t realize the depth of the problem until they did their infrared test,” Sandland said. “They could see [with their camera] things that we couldn’t see.”
Also on the WHRSD matrix for fiscal 2018 include:
• Replace rooftop units at Whitman Middle School – $15,000;
• An HVAC study on all three Whitman schools – $30,000;
• Fire alarm/smoke detector replacement at Conley and WMS – $55,000 to $60,000 each;
• Phys ed curtain at WMS – $14,000;
• Green Communities Program at all three Whitman schools – $335,000;
• HVAC upgrades at all three Whitman schools – cost to be determined;
• Replace exterior doors with card-access at all three Whitman schools – $20,000;
• A loop driveway at the rear of WMS – $18,000;
• Replacement of five univents at WMS – $35,000; and
• A $750,000 feasibility study of renovation or replacement of WMS is also on the matrix along with several other projects at WHRHS and Whitman owned buildings proposed between fiscal 2018 and 2022.
The panel also re-organized during the meeting, voting Lynam to again serve as chairman, Patrick Fatyol to return as vice chairman and Salvucci to again be the clerk.
The committee also voted to spend a portion of the $50,000 remaining in the heating and air-conditioning account to add insulation in the Town Hall attic, where it is lacking.