NORFOLK — The leaky H. Olive Day School roof will soon be replaced.
Residents at the May 14 annual town meeting overwhelmingly supported the $3.5 million project, but not before much discussion.
And selectmen last week approved an agreement with the Massachusetts School Building Authority that will pay about $1 million in state money toward the project.
About $700,000 remaining from the Freeman-Kennedy Elementary School construction is earmarked for the roof. And $300,000 had previously been set aside for design work, including an additional $250,000 from the Freeman-Kennedy work.
The remaining $1.5 million will be covered by debt payments under the state Proposition 2 1/2 levy limit, not requiring a special tax hike, town officials say.
Selectmen Tuesday night were expected to award a contract to Greenwood Industries of Worcester, the sole qualified bidder.
Local officials attribute the lack of bidders to the size and scope of the project, short time frame for the work, and busy construction market.
The roofing company began in 1992 and has a few hundred employees, working on projects throughout New England.
Greenwood has a high rating for 69 recent municipal projects, and its jobs have included schools, fire stations, courthouses and the Statehouse copper roofing project.
The original roof on Olive Day dates back to when the school opened in January 1994 — 25 years ago. An addition was built five years later.
The roofs had a 20-year life expectancy and leaks have been frequent over the last several years, especially in the addition, officials say.
“We do have significant leaks,” Superintendent Ingrid Allardi said. “We’ve had to relocate classrooms, replace and repair furniture and instructional materials, carpeting.”
Large fans have had to be used to prevent mold.
“We continue to have safety and health concerns,” Allardi said, mentioning worries about falls.
“We have a large amount of heat loss in a few areas that puts a strain on the original boilers,” she added.
Facilities director Matt Haffner said improper ventilation has caused mildew, cupolas are failing, and the roof has been patched and ceiling tiles replaced often.
School and town officials have been working for the past two-plus years with the state on the plans to replace the roof under a state accelerated school building program.
New selectman Christopher Wider, who runs a local roofing business, raised several objections to the roof project at town meeting.
“No one is saying you don’t need a new roof, the question is, do you need a gold-plated roof?” Wider said. He added that “amenities are above and beyond” and the town could use any money it can save for other needed expenses such as a new fire station.
School and town officials countered the project is a basic roof with needed additions and certain state requirements have to be met.
“This is something that has been in the works for years. This is the most sensible and financially prudent way,” school committee Chairman Thomas Doyle said.
He noted the $1 million saved with the Freeman-Kennedy project and the school department having a good track record of managing projects.
“That’s unheard of for a municipal project,” Doyle said.
Several expressed concerns the town would lose out on the state aid.
“We don’t have time to wait,” school board member Jenn Wynn said. “Let’s do what needs to be done now.”
“If my children’s bedroom looked like the school, I would replace the roof,” school committee member Medora Champagne said.
State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, a former local school board member, warned it’s getting more difficult to get state money.
Besides the $1 million, Dooley helped secure a $100,000 state grant that has been used to purchase new glass and skylights to replace and repair the existing glasswork that is part of the roof project.
The new roof will be more energy efficient, officials say, with additional insulation.
The roof replacement is scheduled to begin after school closes in June, and is expected to be completed by mid-September.
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