Published in the August 20, 2015 edition


NORTH READING – The demolition of North Reading High School began on Tuesday, the final phase of the three-year, $123 million construction project to replace the 58-year-old high school and 50-year-old middle school buildings with two new, 21st century facilities.

But even before the bulldozers moved in, The Secondary Schools Building Committee was wrapped up in the final stages of bringing the middle school to “substantial completion” in time for the opening of classes on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

“We’re focusing this week on getting the building inspector to sign off” on substantial completion, said Joanna Kripp, senior project manager for Gilbane Construction Company. She said they have approvals from the plumbing inspector and the electrical inspector and they’ve completed the fire alarm testing. The building inspector was scheduled to return for a final walk through and Gilbane is working closely with Dore and Whittier, the project’s architects to make sure everyone’s on the same page when it’s time to ask for substantial completion approval.

A great deal of work was done last Thursday, Friday and Saturday to prepare the site and the demolition permit was approved by the town. SSBC members participated in a walk-through of the new middle school building two weeks ago and everyone was pleased with the progress in the building and the overall state of affairs.

Brad Dore of Dore and Whittier said they continue to run down the new building’s punch list trying to identify all issues that are not yet completed and identify any outstanding issues that might hold up substantial completion. “We’re working through them and don’t see any at this point,” Dore said. All the building’s “life safety and egress issues have been taken care of, he said, and that meets the definition of substantial completion. There will be punch list items that are not yet completed but that’s a different set of issues, he added.

“We are all very excited and proud of how the building looks,” added Kripp.

The SSBC voted unanimously to approve the regular monthly invoice payments for July to Gilbane Co., ($1.1 million), PMA, the owner’s project manager, ($48,186) and UTS, the owner’s testing agent, $2,118.

In response to a question from Allison Carlson, Kripp said dust control measures with a water truck have been underway this summer and fire hoses will be used when demolition begins to keep down the flying dirt and dust that inevitably arises. SSBC Chairman Chuck Carucci noted a lot of material had been ripped out of the building’s interior and stockpiled outside the school to be picked up later. That may be the cause of the dust, he suggested.

Returning to a piece of business that was dealt with at the June Town Meeting, SSBC member Stephen O’Leary moved to authorize payment of $2,500 to facilitate the drawing of definitive plans of the small amount of land taking from the Gill family for the main entrance and school driveway off of Park Street. Town Meeting approved the land transaction. O’Leary said there is going to be some additional costs to draw up new plans and potentially some legal fees. This should be the final expense, he stated.

In accordance with the Town Meeting vote, the Gills will be deeding a very small portion of land at the corner of Route 62 and in return the plan will show a curb cut providing the Gills access off of the roadway. The plan will then be filed in Land Court. The payment was approved unanimously.

The SSBC is still working on the assumption it has about $175,000 left in the contingency budget and Carucci said PMA is working to identify whatever savings can be made in the final days of the project. “The one number you have to look at is that $175,000 and we go from there,” said Carucci. There will be a full update the next time the committee meets Aug. 25.

The plans include a new softball field following demolition of the old high school and the pricing is still being worked through with Gilbane, said PMA manager Ed Whelan.

One of the concerns was the expense of grading in the area of the future field’s outfield. In response to a question from SSBC member Steve Nathan, Whelan said they won’t know more about whether there’s ledge present until they actually “get out there” and start to dig.

On a lighter note, Carucci said he will be taking the town’s assessor through the new middle school because it has to be assessed for insurance purposes.

“Get a really good value, Chuck,” urged School Committee member Mel Webster.