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The new Mount Greylock Regional School has twice failed to pass muster to receive a temporary certificate of occupancy that will allow it to open. School officials plan to meet next week to address the situation.

Mount Greylock Building Project Fails to Obtain Certificate of Occupancy

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — After repeated public assurances from its construction manager that the new Mount Greylock Regional School will be ready for the Sept. 6 opening of school, the district Friday informed staff and families that the building failed Thursday in its second attempt to obtain a temporary certificate of occupancy.
 
"[Thursday's] inspection indicated that there remain tasks to complete before the TCO can be issued, and a new inspection has been set for next week," Superintendent Kimberley Grady and Principal Mary MacDonald wrote in an email addressed to "The Mount Greylock Community."
 
"Our community has been anticipating an opening next week, along with tours for new and current students alike," the email continued. "These tours will be delayed until the TCO is procured; at that point, we will be able to share a schedule of daytime and evening tours with you.
 
"The Athletic Director and coaches will be in communication regarding locations of practices scheduled for next week, and they will convey any changes to student-athletes and families."
 
District officials long have understood that they would be opening the building under a TCO — as opposed to a regular certificate of occupancy — because the demolition and grounds work will be ongoing after the new building is occupied and because work on the school's renovated auditorium is slated to continue into October.
 
The auditorium, one of two major components of the old school that remain, along with the gymnasium, will be the last piece of the project because it is attached to parts of the building that are being torn down — unlike the new three-story academic wing.
 
As recently as last week at a meeting of the district's School Building Committee, Mike Ziobrowski of Turner Construction, the CM at risk in the project, told the panel that the issues raised in an Aug. 16 walk-through with the town's building inspector would be addressed by the Aug. 23 walk-through if not sooner.
 
It was the latest in a long series of public statements from Turner, which missed a significant original timetable for the project last winter. As originally envisioned, the $65 million building project supported by the Massachusetts School Building Authority would have seen classes moving into the school's new three-story academic wing over April vacation 2018, allowing demolition of the old academic wing to commence in the spring.
 
Instead, the district pushed off the use of the new academic wing to the fall of 2018.
 
Then this winter, school district officials worried about whether they should continue with the demolition — as planned — once school let out in June or hold off and preserve the old building in case it was needed for classes in the fall.
 
At a March meeting of the School Building Committee and Transition Committee — the de facto Mount Greylock Regional School Committee until November's election in the newly expanded region — Turner's Mike Giso told the elected officials that his firm has "never not delivered."
 
That same message was echoed two months later by Turner Vice President and General Manager Carl Stewart III.
 
"As I sit here today, I'm confident," Stewart said at a May meeting of the SBC. "We've never not opened in the couple of hundred schools I've worked with, and this is not going to be the first.
 
"That matters a tremendous amount to the people on this side of the table."
 
Based on the School Building Committee's recommendation, which was informed by Turner's guidance, the Transition Committee agreed to go ahead with demolition, which is currently ongoing at the Cold Spring Road campus.
 
In July, Turner's Giso led a walk-through of both the demolition site and the new construction for members of the media and again gave assurances that the project was on schedule for on-time completion.
 
That same week, the chairman of the Transition Committee shared that sentiment with his colleagues.
 
"As of right now, [owner's project manager] Dore and Whittier and Turner are indicating that we are on schedule to move in on time to open school on Sept. 6," Mount Greylock Transition Committee Chairman Joe Bergeron said at a July 18 meeting.
 
Although the School Building Committee recently addressed concerns about the cost of permitting fees for the project, Williamstown Town Manager Jason Hoch on Friday morning confirmed that the district's current nonpayment of those fees is in no way related to Thursday's missed deadline.
 
"I think we have a reasonable approach to deal with the fees going forward," Hoch said. "Any of the open issues that might delay the TCO are not related to the fees.
 
"The building department is focused on doing everything they can to work with the district and the project team there. They continue to clear as much as possible as they can off their schedule so they can focus on the school project."
 
The Transition Committee is planning a special meeting for Wednesday, Grady said this week. As of 11:30 on Friday morning, no agenda has been posted for that meeting.

Tags: MGRHS school project,   

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Stockbridge-Munsee Community Reclaims Some of Its History

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff

A World War II-era mural of Ephraim Wiliams and Mohawk leader Theyanoguin is being removed from the Log to Special Collections as part of the college's examination of its history and relationship with the area and community.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — More than two centuries after they were displaced from lands now known as Berkshire County, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians are coming back to the Berkshires.
 
Last week, the president of Williams College announced to the school community that the college will provide office space to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community's Tribal Historic Preservation Extension Office.
 
The community's director of cultural affairs said this week that the group is relocating its current regional office from Troy, N.Y., east to Williamstown as part of a plan to create a stronger partnership with the liberal arts college.
 
"The goal is to help form a relationship with the college, not just through historic preservation, but there are programs at Williams like Native American studies and archaeology programs that we'd love to be a part of," Heather Bruegl said from her office in Bowler, Wis., site of the headquarters for the Stockbridge-Munsee Band.
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