Finance panel wants to know why McKinley School is leaking
Updated 10:22 am, Thursday, April 7, 2011
With the demolition of the former, mold-infested McKinley School still reverberating, the Fairfield Board of Finance on Tuesday night appropriated $30,000 for a professional study to determine where and why water is entering the new McKinley building.
The board initially considered using $50,000 in bonds to pay for the study, but decided that since it is not yet known how the problem will have to be fixed or what it will cost, it was best to take money from the contingency account. School officials indicated that $30,000 would be enough to cover the study; once the course of action to fix the school is decided, the school board will come back for that funding.
"The bulk of the money we're approving is investigative in nature, not actual repairs," Vice Chairman Robert Bellitto Jr. said. "I'm assuming at some point you're going to come back to us to do the repairs."
First Selectman Kenneth Flatto said no one believes the needed repairs will be costly.
"I think the cause of this needs to be found," Chairman Thomas Flynn said. There are three areas leaking at the Thompson Street school -- one is in a classroom and the other two are in the library. The classroom leak was not discovered until the bottom of a metal cabinet rotted out, said Tom Cullen, director of operations for the school district.
"The concern is how it is getting in, and why is it coming into the building and not straight down the wall and out the weep holes," Cullen said.
The original McKinley School, then the town's oldest school building, closed in the fall of 2000 after mold growth caused illnesses among students and staff. The mold took hold after water entered through the old school's roof while it was being repaired that summer. The school was demolished in 2001 and the current 75,000-square-foot school, built at a cost of $23 million, opened in 2003.
There was discussion Tuesday about having the Board of Education kick in half of the $30,000, but it was pointed out that the finance panel has no authority to tell the school board how to spend its budget.
The board on Tuesday also approved $350,000 in bonding -- $100,000 to remove and replace a fuel tank at Holland Hill School and $250,000 for repairs to the cornice and facade at Tomlinson Middle School.
A question was raised about whether the Tomlinson work is a safety issue. Finance board member Michael Tetreau, who recently toured the school, said the rotted cornice and facade areas would only get worse if not repaired soon, and more work would be would be required if the project is not done now.