NORTH READING – Following up on long-expressed concerns about the safety, particularly in the winter, of the pedestrian sidewalk along the access road leading to the new high school, the Secondary Schools Building Committee last week authorized the expenditure of up to $44,000 to install guard rail with wood posts along the entire 1,200 foot length of the sidewalk, from the foot of the hill to the rear school entrance.

The price is based on cost estimates obtained by project manager Jeff Wetton of PMA Associates, who offered three options of guard rail with either steel or timber posts. The cost estimates ranged from $13,920 for 250 feet of guard rail on timber post to $34,581 for all 1,200 feet, Wetton said. The cost estimate for guard rail mounted on steel posts was roughly twice as expensive and the cost of installing a four-inch-high granite curb as an alternative was so ridiculously expensive as to be a non-starter.

Wetton said it would be necessary to add $10,000 to the $34,000 guard rail cost as an allowance for patching the asphalt sidewalks where holes will have to be dug to install the wood posts. This accounts for the $44,000 cost. The guard rail will be approximately 30 inches high.

The SSBC approved the sum, hoping the town’s Department of Public Works can obtain a less expensive bid from the DPW’s regular guard rail contractor. A similar occurrence happened prior to the beginning of school, when the DPW saved the project thousands of dollars on the repaving of Sherman Road.

The vote to authorize the cost for the guard rail, which the SSBC hopes can be installed in three or four weeks before the beginning of winter, was 11 to 1. SSBC member Cliff Bowers voted in opposition.

On the related issue of winter snow removal, Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto and DPW Director Dick Carnevale said any issues would be worked out with the school department ahead of time.

Construction update

Gilbane’s construction manager said there is some remaining demolition ongoing at the middle school prior to the installation of structural steel and backfilling the underground electrical work and excavating for underground plumbing. The structural steel and roof work is ongoing, he said, and the exterior waterproofing is also underway.

SSBC chairman Chuck Carucci asked about the lack of heat on the far end of Main Street, down by the gymnasium. Gilbane’s Jim Driscoll responded the area will eventually be heated but isn’t at this time because the heating unit for the area will be located on top of the middle school, which isn’t there yet. To deal with that, Gilbane is attempting to insulate that wall to fill in any voids and make it as weather proof as possible. He estimated it would be possible to maintain a 50 degree temperature there. Carucci asked for that to be put in writing. The school cafeteria, gymnasium and Main Street from the “bridge” area to the distance learning lab are heated, Gilbane representatives said.

It was acknowledged that the administration office area is uncomfortably cold. Driscoll said this is because the area is exposed to a “cold wall,” which they are in the process of trying to insulate. PMA manager Jeff Wetton said they’ve been working with school department buildings supervisor Wayne Hardacker and the HVAC contractor on updates and to make some adjustments.

Principal AJ Loprete said drafts from the hallway seemed to be “sucking the heat right out” of the administration area but keeping the door closed seems to be helping the situation.

SSBC member Sean Delaney asked PMA for a plan to put in place a month from now, when the temperature really drops.


The SSBC approved payment of invoices of $6,345 from UTS, the owner’s testing agent and Gilbane Construction for $2.2 million.

SSBC members, together with Gilbane, PMA and architect Dore & Whittier took a three-hour-long tour of the high school building to review the “punch list” of approximately 144 issues with the building that need to be addressed, corrected or repaired. Signs for the school’s facilities such as the gymnasium and media center are expected to be delivered in early December.

School Committee member Mel Webster said the three-hour tour was “extremely productive. I think a lot of questions were answered and issues that need to be fixed are going to be fixed.”

Architect Brad Dore said they spent three hours that day going through the punch list. “For the most part, I don’t think there’s too much disagreement. Some things are completed. All in all, I don’t think there’s a lot of disagreement.

“Our plan is to take that punch list and consolidate it into a master list, sit down with PMA and Gilbane and get a consensus” until the list is done.

Abutter Jim Nelson of 2 School Hill Lane asked about the status of the drainage swale built in the rear of the school’s parking lot. Wetton said there is some regrading necessary but that can’t happen until the construction fence around the perimeter has been removed.