Weather Contributes to Longsjo Roof Job Delay; Costs to Rise
FITCHBURG -- Replacing the Longsjo Middle School roof will not be finished until spring, and will cost more than expected.
“The biggest delays came from the weather,” said Tom Peterson, director of school building maintenance for the Fitchburg Public Schools. “We exchanged the hot weather for really wet weather, and you can’t be on the roof then either.”
The city borrowed $2 million to replace the 80-year-old roof, which had been persistently leaking for the past decade. The entire project will cost at least $367,000 more than that, according to Auditor Calvin Brooks.
Brooks said the cost overrun is due to several unexpected issues that needed to be addressed. After workers began replacing the roof they realized pipes in the attic were covered in asbestos insulation, he said.
“They said it would be better to abate the asbestos completely,” Brooks said.
In addition to the asbestos abatement, the decision was made to replace fire suppressing sprinklers while work on the roof is being done, he said.
“We’re trying to get ahead of it, being proactive with these sprinkler heads and replace them before there’s a problem,” said Brooks.
Lastly, the building’s large wooden gutters were in worse shape than expected. Instead of rebuilding the existing gutters, as originally planned, the city ordered custom-made aluminum gutters to replace them entirely, said Peterson.
Fabrication of the gutters will take about three months, he said.
“That portion of it, installing the gutters, is just not going to happen until the weather breaks in the spring,” said Peterson.
Reconstruction of the slate roof began in June and was initially expected to conclude in October. Now, officials say the project will be done in April or May.
According to their contract, roofers with John F. Shea & Company are unable to work during rain, extreme heat, frost or snow, according to Mayor Stephen DiNatale.
DiNatale said the number of work days missed because of poor weather conditions adds up to two months.
“I wish it were sooner, but winter is upon us. We’ll get a taste of it this Friday,” he said.
The City Council last month approved Brooks’ request to partially fund the unforeseen expenses using $217,000 from the capital reserve account.
For fiscal 2019, $300,000 was appropriated for the capital reserve account, which is maintained to cover unexpected capital needs, said DiNatale.
As for the rest of the money in the capital reserve account, Brooks said $40,000 was spent toward a new Fire Department pumper tanker and $30,000 is expected to be spent on a vehicle for the municipal airport.
The remainder of funds needed to account for cost overruns to the Longsjo roof, $150,000 -- will come from free cash, according to Brooks.
“When we started we thought the $2 million would be enough,” Brooks told city councilors last week.
City councilors reacted to news of the project’s delay at recent meeting. At-Large Councilor E. Thomas Donnelly said the delays are par for the course in remodeling projects.
“There are very few remodeling projects that go smooth as silk, especially one this large,” he said.
Ward 1 Councilor Amy Green said “we’re up over half-a-million dollars or so, I would just like to know how we would keep coming in with such shortages.”
At-Large Councilor Marcus DiNatale said the project was supposed to be done in October, and delayed again to December. He asked whether “more surprises” are to be expected.
“We’re pretty confident in the numbers that we have here,” Brooks responded.
To date, about 65 percent of the 39,000 square feet of old slate shingles on Longsjo’s roof have been replaced with new asphalt shingles, Peterson said Thursday.
The roof has been “sealed off,” he said, and should not leak this winter.
“The roof essentially does not leak anymore. We expected the contractor will make sure the building stays dry,” said Peterson.