CHESTER, Vt. – Chester Andover Elementary School students, currently all functioning out of classrooms at Green Mountain Union High School building, likely won’t return to their own school building until mid-November at the earliest. The timing, along with a list of damages resulting from a water line break at CAES on Aug. 24, just days before the start of the school year, were laid out at a Facilities Meeting Tuesday, Sept. 18, just prior to the full Green Mountain Unified School District Board meeting.
The initial flooding in the boiler room of the school was caused by a stripped bolt on a flange, causing a burst pipe. About 48 inches of water resulted in the destruction of a water heater, two boilers, and three electrical panels. Electrical wiring leading from the electrical panel to seven other unaffected panels throughout the school would also need to be replaced. Though there was talk that the bolt might have been faulty, the piping at CAES was first done in 1954.
After the initial flooding, subsequent testing of a repair on Aug. 27 failed, as pressure from the town pipe, which is 8 inches in diameter, meeting up with the school’s 4-inch pipe, caused additional flooding in two classrooms, and compromised the support around the slab underneath that area of the school.
The result is that now three main areas of repair need to take place at CAES: a new water system leading from the town to the school needs to be designed and installed – upgrading the piping from 4 to 8 inches; a new electrical system needs to be designed and installed including replacement of water heater and boilers; and support around the slab needs to be restored.
Naomi Johnson, an engineer from Dufresne Group, who has been working with TRSU administrators, presented her plan for the water system. The plan includes replacing the 4-inch pipe with 8-inch pipe connecting with the town water. At the same time, electrical conduit would be laid above the water line for possible future electrical upgrades. School administrators had put out the bid to five area contractors with an Oct. 5 deadline for work to be completed. M&M Construction was the sole responder with a bid of $79,556 for the work. The Facilities Board approved recommending hiring M&M to the full board and they were approved for the work at the full GMUSD meeting that followed.
The electrical system is being designed by H.B. Energy Solutions with a proposal that was expected Monday, Sept. 24. Master electrician Doug Perry who attended the meeting said that the electrical work would take six weeks from the time of approval. Even with a special GMUSD meeting scheduled Tuesday, Sept. 25, presumably to approve the plan and budget, that brings the timing for the electrical to be finished on approximately Nov. 7, with water heater and boilers needing to be installed after that.
While electrical work is happening, the slab support work can happen simultaneously according to Johnson. The slab support will be repaired by drilling down and pumping in a fluid mortar that will fill in the voids around the slab to restore the support of the slab. Costs and proposals for this work have yet to be gathered since the structural engineering report on the slab had only been received on the morning of Sept. 18.
CAES is insured by the Vermont School Board Insurance Trust and representative Jordon Bergeron was on hand to talk about their coverage of the project. According to Bergeron, all of the destruction inside CAES and the school boiler room is covered including “replacement costs” of the boilers, water heater, and electrical systems, as well as any damage to the two flooded classrooms. The work that needed to be done to the slab he was less sure of, needing to have his adjuster review the project, but thought that would be covered. Bergeron did make clear that “we cover for what was there before…not covering for upgrades.” What is not covered however is the water line project, which includes both M&M work and the design fee for the project, a total of approximately $85,000.
The need to hire one person to oversee the total project was also a topic in the facilities meeting. Cost for a “clerk of the works” was estimated to cost approximately 10 percent of the project and Superintendent Meg Powden confirmed with VSBIT’s Bergeron that it would not be covered by insurance. GMUSD board member Rick Alexander suggested from the floor that they reach out to area engineering contractors to see what the options might be. During the GMUSD meeting, a CAES parent, Jill Bruning, citing concern for the amount of work already on CAES Principal Katherine Fogg’s plate spoke to “urge the board to consider a ‘clerk of the works’.”
TRSU Business Manager Cheryl Hammond discussed earlier in the meeting that she has been in touch with the State Board of Education and looked into emergency school construction funds, which cover 30 percent of costs that are not covered by insurance. That leaves approximately $60,000 to be absorbed by the GMUSD budget as well as any costs associated with a clerk of the works, should the board decide to hire someone for that position. Although discussion in the full GMUSD board meeting turned to how they would pay for the project, board members quickly agreed they had no recourse but to move forward and move forward as quickly as possible.
The special meeting of the GMUSD board is scheduled on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 6 p.m. in the Green Mountain Union High School library.