, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 8, 2010

Merrimac to foot much of mold cleanup

WEST NEWBURY — A plan to remediate a mold and bacteria problem at Donaghue Elementary School in Merrimac was approved by the Pentucket Regional School Committee last night, with Merrimac town officials agreeing to cover a majority of the cleanup cost.

Selectman Earl Baumgardner told the school committee that his board was moving forward out of health concerns for the students, but he still didn't believe the job was the responsibility of the town. He said further discussion on what constitutes a capital expense versus a maintenance expense was needed.

But Pentucket Superintendent Paul Livingston called the mold cleanup a "large-scale" project that was the town's financial responsibility. For Pentucket to cover the cost would require an increase in its operating budget, which would need approval by two of the district's three towns at special town meetings, he said. He also said he was advised the project would likely not qualify for any emergency funding from the state.

According to the regional agreement for Pentucket, the elementary schools are owned by the towns, which are responsible for any capital improvements that require 10-year bonding.

Livingston said he learned that under state prevailing wage laws, a job that would cost $3,500 per room if completed by district employees would bump up to $5,000 per room if it is put out to bid. He had worked with Pentucket facilities manager Greg Hadden to develop a plan to remediate Donaghue's fifth- and sixth-grade wing using a combination of in-house employees and a professional team.

A combination of school insurance money and $6,657 approved by the school board at a special meeting on Thursday would allow the district to pay for the cleanup of that wing. A state-certified construction manager employed by the district will serve as the project's foreman.

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