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Unity Reviews Work on School

Unity — With the controversial $2.75 million bond vote to finish the K-8 elementary school out of the way, the School Board meeting Tuesday night drew just a couple of residents instead of the more than 50 who had been turning out for most meetings the last few months.

Gordon Bristol, the owner’s representative on the school project, gave an update on construction.

Bristol said a construction schedule has been established and construction management firm Trumbull-Nelson expects to turn the building over to the school district on August 29. Before voters approved the bond at the March 22 annual school meeting, Trumbull-Nelson guaranteed the building would be ready for students by the start of the next school year at a cost not to exceed what voters have approved.

Some of the work being done since the bond vote includes reviewing code work, installing windows, testing boilers, determining what has been inspected and also looking over the kitchen equipment that Scott Vaughn, previously both the architect and construction manager on the project, had purchased at an auction of the Balsams Resort in northern New Hampshire at a reduced price. Not all of the items can be used, Bristol said.

Bristol also said complete plans were not submitted to the Department of Education.

“We hope to do that in a couple of days and if all goes well, they should be approved in two weeks,” Bristol said.

Resident Joe Warner said it would be prudent for the board to provide updates on the project’s budget at every board meeting so residents don’t hear of cost overruns as the project nears completion. He was concerned about additional architectural costs since Vaughn has terminated his services, along with legal costs in light of talk about litigation against Vaughn, and other items such as landscaping.

“There may be costs to these and they may be substantial and I’m concerned that someone needs to be accountable for those so there are no surprises,” Warner said. “I think it is useful to examine these on a monthly basis.” Bristol said there is $390,000 available outside of the construction budget to cover the costs mentioned by Warner and they are keeping a close eye on expenses to be sure the entire project is finished with money that has been approved.

The original construction bond approved in August 2010 was $4.7 million but the budget for the 34,000 square foot school has since mushroomed to nearly $9 million.

Also at the meeting, the School Board put out a call for volunteers this weekend to help move some playground equipment

School Board member Bob McDevitt said the playground equipment needs to be moved from around the back of the building to a paved area so workers can install windows. The board set 9 a.m. Saturday for the work to start.

Principal Chip Baldwin said the move should only take a few hours. Anyone who can bring a pickup truck is asked to do so.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.