WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — School officials and the School Building Committee on Tuesday continued to express their frustration with the pace of completion of the Mount Greylock Regional school building project.
At the latest meeting of the School Building Committee, the panel pressed Turner Construction Vice President Carl Stewart III for a date when the general contractor finally will finish work on the school's auditorium.
"What's your best guess?" co-Chairman Mark Schiek asked Stewart point blank.
"I'm not going to give one," Stewart said. "Believe me, Williamstown is a nice town, but we want to be done as much as you want us to be done."
The middle-high school opened in September with all parts of the building, including the new three-story academic wing, open under a temporary certificate of occupancy. That TCO did not cover the auditorium, one of two public areas — along with the gymnasium — that were preserved and renovated from the original 1950 school.
Four months into the school year, the auditorium is still unavailable, a condition that sent the school's fall concert off campus to Williams College's Chapin Hall and forced the annual residency of Shakespeare & Company to hold rehearsals in the cafeteria.
"We have the spring musical coming up, and we're going to be holding auditions and rehearsals in the cafeteria," Principal Mary MacDonald told the committee. "We have a concert this January, and we have plans in place to do that in the cafeteria. We have debates each fall in the eighth grade, and we'll go back to Griffin Hall [at Williams].
"I haven't been able to find space at Williams for the musical in March. I don't know if I have to, but I have to make that decision now."
Schiek took the lead on pressing the district's case with the New York City-based multinational contractor with offices in Albany.
"We're affecting programming now," Schiek said in a meeting viewable on the district's YouTube site. "So we need to know when the turnover will be."
Stewart said the systems that need to aligned are complex and that Turner is moving as quickly as it can to get the building ready for commissioning.
"As an example, we put the house lighting in," Stewart said. "They're having problems programming it. The electricians needed to get back up to it, so we needed a special lift. These buildings nowadays are much more complicated than they used to be, and the commissioning process is tough."
Mount Greylock Superintendent Kimberley Grady told the committee the district aims to incorporate the auditorium into a full certificate of occupancy for the entire middle-high school, rather than open spaces under a series of TCOs, in part because the latter option would impact the start date for warranties on equipment. Opening everything under a full COO, when available, is in the district's best interest, she said.
"We're going through commissioning of systems in the auditorium," Stewart said. "As soon as those meet programmatic needs and the needs of the town [inspector], we'll turn them over to you.
"We know you want them, and we're working hard to get things done."
Grady told the SBC that, "per discussions with our [legal] counsel]," the district is holding back payments to all subcontractors on the project at the moment.
"We'll discuss which ones have final pay, which ones that have retainage that we can release final pay," Grady said.
In April, the school committee decided to retain an attorney with the Boston firm Strang, Scott, Giroux and Young to represent the district in regard to the building project.
Schiek ended Tuesday's discussion with a plea to the general contractor.
"All we can say is, 'Get it done,' " Schiek said, looking directly at Stewart. "What else can you say at this point? Get it done."
Another point of contention at Tuesday's hour-long meeting was a $50,940 change order, paid from Turner's contingency, to redo the entry from Cold Spring Road (Route 7) over Indigenous Peoples Day weekend in October, about a month after the school opened.
The committee needed to approve the expenditure, which was approved on an emergency basis to make the changes to the turn radius and the width of the two egress lanes from the campus.
Grady explained that the entrance was a problem for both school buses and fire trucks, noting that the Williamstown Fire Department ran tests during the night after the school opened and determined that the radius was insufficient.
"On a day like this with perfect conditions, they could make the turn, but as soon as we add any snow, they wouldn't," Grady said.
Committee member Al Terranova was perplexed by the need to make the change after the work appeared to be completed.
"How does this happen?" Terranova asked. "How do we not know what the radius of a turn in a driveway should be? We know how big a bus is. We know how big a fire engine is. How does this happen?"
Grady asked Jason Springer of architect Perkins Eastman to field Terranova's query.
"Coming to the project late, I had the same questions when this came up," Springer said. "It's a difference between what we planned on paper and the real world experience of the fire department coming onto the site with their vehicles. … On paper, the emergency vehicle radiuses worked.
"This wouldn't be the first time that something worked great on paper and not as well in practice."
During the vote to approve payment for redoing the entryway, Terranova paused to think about his decision before ultimately voting as part of a unanimous decision of the eight committee members present to pay the bill.
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Mount Greylock Superintendent Succession Topic in Exec Session
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Executive session minutes from the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee show that the panel did discuss a succession plan for the district's superintendent behind closed doors, and the minutes shed light on the reason for the superintendent's subsequent departure.
In mid-July, iBerkshires.com filed an Open Meeting Law complaint against the committee alleging that, "at the very least, the School Committee's deliberations on July 1 strayed into territory not covered by the stated exception to the Open Meeting Law."
That meeting was one of four held in executive session for the stated purpose of conducting contract negotiations with nonunion personnel, specifically the superintendent.
An extemporaneous statement by committee member Al Terranova at a July 13 public meeting indicated that the panel did more behind closed doors than simply discuss contract negotiations.
Andrew Wells called in to the virtual meeting of the Diversity Inclusion and Racial Equity Committee to talk about the 2013 death of his daughter at the hands of a drunk driver in Plymouth.
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The issue came up recently when residents asked questions about candidates signs and "issues" signs on town-owned property, like the town green, which runs along both sides of Main Street (Route 2) from the curb to the sidewalk from Field Park east to Cole Avenue.
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The DEI Working Group of the Mount Greylock School Council hosted a 90-minute virtual conference on Tuesday attended by more than a dozen community residents, including several with ties to other groups addressing the same issues.
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On a vote of 4-2, the committee agreed to spend the next week reviewing a year-old list of value engineering items associated with its athletic fields project and to vote as soon as next Thursday to pay its architect to do the detailed design work needed to rebid a project that already came in over... click for more