Published in the September 21, 2017 edition


NORTH READING — Superintendent of Schools Jon Bernard highlighted the significant progress that has been made in completing the final punch list items on the Secondary Schools Building project with the School Committee last week.

Most matters were minor in nature and both Bernard and the School Committee members felt they are now in a good position to close out the project soon.

Regarding site landscaping, Bernard said, “There are still some remaining areas to be hydroseeded, particularly as the bridge comes from the Main Street corridor at the high school, there is a sloped area where they’ve had a difficult time with grass germinating. Gilbane has agreed to re-hydroseed the area sometime this month. We’re hoping to capture fall growing season.”

Bernard added that landscape consultant Bill Brown was on the property the previous week and he determined that three trees and about 26 other plants, such as low growing shrubs, have failed and need to be replaced. However, since much of the other shrubbery has filled in the missing areas, they are proposing that the cost of these plants and trees be “monetized” and if that is acceptable to the SSBC, those funds could be put back into the project in other areas. The SSBC meeting was held on Tuesday night (after press time).

School Committee Chairman Mel Webster inquired about the status of the “remaining actual construction punch list items,” such as a drainage area outside the central administration wing of the building and other issues with “catch basins and manhole covers that have to be looked at by our Public Works Department.”

Bernard said just three issues remain “that involve any kind of labor. The others tend to be more paperwork. There continues to be puddling outside of the central office – that small island with drain that I think is just too high. I tend to see it the most because it’s right outside my window,” he said.

Bernard added that an inspection is needed on a manhole cover in the Dodge Road area that will likely require a retrofit. He explained, “We are waiting for someone from the Dow Co. that did the repaving to give a third party assessment along with our Public Works Department. The engineer is not willing to sign off on it because they weren’t present.”

“The third item that involves labor is a need for a replacement piece of glass in the serving line of the high school cafeteria that I looked at again today. It is a flawed piece of glass; it’s pitted,” the superintendent explained.

Webster commented that although a deadline of August 15 had been set for completion of the punch list, after which a penalty could have been assessed against Gilbane, the general contractor, they have not opted to assess any penalties against the company.

“For all intents and purposes, the project is done except for those few minor construction items,” Webster said. Bernard agreed. “I think were are very, very close.”

Parking lot cracks

Bernard commented that they need to do “some proactive work in addressing some cracks in pavement” in the back parking lot of the high school. The School Committee agreed.

“The bottom line is everyone is telling us it is a year warranty, however, there are some pretty serious cracks back there, and a lot of grass growing through,” Webster said, adding the high school was there for 55 or 60 years and he did not recall that lot ever looking this way.

Bernard said he worked with the DPW director to get an estimate on the parking lot work needed and hopes it can be done before the winter.

Work with subcontractor

Bernard has also continued to work with other subcontractors and reported being quite pleased with the progress being made to resolve several other outstanding matters, much of it for no cost or very reasonable costs.

“Ockers is the consultant that was hired to provide and install much of the audio-visual systems and they’ve been very good to work with,” he said. He described the work done by Ockers as “substantial” even though the items themselves are not big ticket ones.

“The benefits have been significant and the improvements have made a difference,” Bernard said. For example, last week they were scheduled to tie a fiber optic line from the gymnasium down to the control room. “They’ve been a good presence here,” Bernard said.

The best example he said he could give was a retrofit to a design flaw in the location of the control panel for the Performing Arts Center (PAC).

“The only place to do that previously was the control booth, which we all know is a good distance away from the stage,” the superintendent explained.

To correct this flaw, Bernard said Ockers “installed a restaurant panel on the stage behind a wall.”

“They’ve done a lot of work a no cost, some things have had a cost,” he said, which had totalled “about $1,037.”

“They did a cutout of the projector in the control room in the Performing Arts Center. It’s a very expensive piece of equipment and the way it was designed it was in a path that was very susceptible to being kicked. It is an area that tends to be dark, so they built a rack that slides in and out for bulb changing,” Bernard said.

Although this case over the projector is now located within the PAC, Bernard said it was nicely finished and most people would never notice it’s there while it functions to “preserve a piece of equipment which is very costly.”

School Committee member Jerry Venezia commended the progress made. “This relationship was cultivated by Jon (Bernard) independent of the Secondary School Building Committee (SSBC). In other words, you worked with Ockers directly,” Venezia said.

Bernard agreed, explaining that both he and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Patrick Daly “were seeking codes to program the restaurant panel and the only people to get that from was the Ockers folks. They wrote back to us asking for a meeting. They really felt their customer service had been compromised and they wanted to restore that with us.”

Ockers proved their commitment to restoring that faith in their reputation once again with they sent a representative to be on-site with Bernard and other administrators during their first meeting of the new school year with teachers and staff the day before school started to ensure everything in the PAC functioned properly.

“I would go so far to say they’ve been the best subcontractor to work with as far as getting them back to help us,” Bernard said, who added he expected to provide the SSBC with a three-page report detailing about 25 items addressed by Ockers.