Unity Hires New Firm to Finish Elementary School Building

Unity — The School Board voted to hire Trumbull-Nelson as the new construction manager on the elementary school after a nonpublic meeting with legal counsel Monday.

The Hanover firm replaces Scott Vaughn of Vaughn Associates, who was removed as construction manager in November by the School Board, primarily because of a stop-work order and concerns that construction may not resume in time to finish the building for the next school year. Vaughn will stay on as architect.

“Vaughn Associates agrees with and supports the School Board’s decision,” Vaughn said Monday night. “I look forward to working with Trumbull-Nelson and having the school ready for occupancy by the fall of 2014.”

In November, Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin recommended Vaughn be entirely removed from the project while the School Board was willing to give him until Dec. 31 to get the stop-work order lifted, which has been in place since last August. The school was scheduled to be open for the current school year.

The state Fire Marshal’s Office issued the stop-work order on the K-8 building last summer because a complete set of plans had not been submitted for approval. An alternative window installation was also part of the reason for the work stoppage.

“Trumbull-Nelson is now running the show,” School Board chairman Shawn Randall said.

The initial contract for Trumbull-Nelson is not to exceed $50,000, he said. The company will assess the situation, get the stop-work order lifted and develop cost estimates by early next month to finish the job.

“They will be on site (today),” Randall said. “They have already started the process.”

Randall said it is too early to tell as to whether voters will be asked to spend more tax dollars for the school at the annual school meeting in March.

“I don’t know how much or even if we will ask for any (money),” he said.

Randall also said they have received another $200,000 anonymous donation, which brings the total budget for the school, between donations and voter-approved spending, to more than $6 million. Voters initially approved a $4.7 million bond in August 2010 for a new school. Since then the plans have been modified and the size of the building increased.

Randall said they now have $550,000 in unencumbered funds for the construction.

The expectation at the time work was halted was that it would resume in the fall and the school would be finished by Dec. 31.

Now the goal is to have Unity students, who have been attending Claremont Middle School and Disnard Elementary school since the school year started, to be in their new building when school resumes next August.

The School Board’s regularly scheduled meeting is at 6:30 tonight in town hall.

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