NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 13, 2012

Work on auditorium to begin next month

(Continued)

During the subcommittee meeting, Pentucket chairman Brian Page questioned a decision by Superintendent Jeffery Mulqueen not to order criminal background checks on the workers who will be in the school daily during the month-long project.

But Mulqueen explained that under state law, even if he received a negative report on a worker, he could not share that information with anyone else — even the owner of the company. He assured the subcommittee that the plan is to completely close off the auditorium from students and all other activities during the renovation. And he stressed that he took seriously the responsibility of the school district “to supervise children in ways that keep them safe.”

Noting what she feels are growing costs for the ongoing renovation at the Page Elementary School in her town, West Newbury’s Jill Eichhorst asked for assurances that the auditorium project would not also “go up and up and up” in price.

Bergeron said Smith and Schumacher have prioritized the safety repairs and will start with the work to be done by Port Lighting along with construction of a shed with a concrete foundation to store the music program’s larger instruments. Overcrowding due to inadequate storage in the music room was creating a hazardous situation for students and teachers.

They will continue to tick off other items down the list with any funds remaining with the clear understanding that they must only spend up to the $100,000 allotted by the towns for the project.

Last spring voters in Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury agreed to extend a 10-year bond set to retire in 2015, allocating a total of $800,000 to address deteriorating conditions and safety issues to building and grounds at the secondary-school campus.

Of that amount, $100,000 was targeted for serious safety issues with rigging and lighting and asbestos floor remediation in the auditorium. Replacements for broken choral risers, platforms and auditorium seating and more adequate storage for large musical instruments were included in the discussion on Town Meeting floor.

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