Published in the July 2, 2015 edition


NORTH READING – The new North Reading Middle School is scheduled to open in nine short weeks, with a formal dedication ceremony already scheduled for Sept. 30. But the town hasn’t forgotten about efforts to recover at least part of the project’s cost overruns on behalf of taxpayers when the combined $123 million middle and high school budget went 14 percent over the original budget.

About a year ago, the Selectmen announced the town filed for mediation against two of the principal contractors on the middle-high school project: Dore and Whittier, the project architect and PMA Consultants, LLC, the project manager, for the “substantial budget increases” the project experienced between 2012, when it was approved by voters and 2013, when the project went to bid. In 2013, voters at a Special Town Meeting and subsequent election were obliged to approve $15.5 million in supplemental funding to avoid crippling cuts to both schools.

The Board of Selectmen’s last meeting began with a lengthy executive session that was obviously called to discuss litigation strategy regarding the effort to recover project overrun costs. After the board convened in public session, the members voted unanimously to approve the transfer of $65,000 to the town’s legal budget to pursue the case.

At the October 2014 Town Meeting, voters approved $110,000 to pay the costs of pursuing the mediation efforts. Selectmen Chairman Robert Mauceri said Monday night’s vote for another $65,000 is also to cover additional money in the legal budget for special counsel in attempting to recover the town’s costs for the project overruns “in terms of estimates being well below the actual costs.”

In unrelated business, the Selectmen also voted to transfer $19,000 within the Water Department budget, from expenses to salaries.