BARRE – Supt. Maureen M. Marshall briefed Quabbin Regional School Committee members Thursday on the upcoming removal of asbestos floor tile from the Oakham Center School kitchen, cafeteria and adjoining hallway.
A request for quotes will be posted Sept. 20 on the Central Register and state COMMBUYS website. Quotes for the project, estimated to cost “less than $100,000,” according to the superintendent, will be opened Oct. 4 at the school district central office.
The school committee would award the contract at its Oct. 12 meeting.
Since Quabbin district schools opened Aug. 29, all K-6 Oakham students have been attending classes at the New Braintree Grade School.
Supt. Marshall told the school committee the asbestos abatement and reflooring project should be complete by Thanksgiving, but a date for a return of students to Oakham would be determined at a later date.
Until Tuesday night, a timeline for the project had been up in the air, questioned by Oakham selectmen.
Selectmen agreed to go forward with the scope of services phase of the project, but not before a contentious half-hour discussion with Ms. Marshall, Cheryl Duval, Quabbin’s director of administrative service, and Lee Wolanin, chairman of the Quabbin Regional School Committee.
Since July 24, the Quabbin district has had a $3,500 contract with ATC Group Services of West Springfield to prepare a scope of services for removing the asbestos from the school, which was built in 1974.
At that meeting selectmen maintained that because the town owned the building and the board has a fiduciary responsibility to local taxpayers, the board should have been a party to the choice to hire ATC and was not.
Ms. Marshall answered ATC had been hired in compliance with the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) and the draft scope of services and request for quotes submitted by ATC Aug. 31 was approved Sept. 7 by Janet McKenna, environmental engineer for the state Department of Labor Standards.
The superintendent said the Quabbin district had a longstanding relationship with ATC for the monitoring of its buildings, adding, “We needed a professional association to place the scope of services together. That was not something the district could do, not having the necessary qualifications. We used ATC because of their knowledge of the situation.”
Matthew Broderick, vice chairman, questioned why the Quabbin administration had not solicited several quotes, calling it “a sound business practice.”
Ms. Duval answered, “You don’t need to when it’s on the OSD (state Operational Services Division) contract and under $10,000 for the services.”
Mr. Broderick said the board had been getting prices on its own and said, “I’m just confused why we’re this far down the road with it already.”
Ms. Marshall answered that the school district’s obligation under AHERA was to provide this information and go the project along.
“We hold the liability. You do not,” she said.
Mr. Broderick said ATC’s qualification was not an issue, but cost was.
“If the town of Oakham is going to be assuming the entire cost of this project, which I assume it is, then I reckon the issue of paying for all of this gives the Board of Selectmen the authority to participate in the process of selection. We did not have a chance to do that,” the selectman said.
When Ms. Marshall questioned selectmen if they wanted to scrap what had been done to date and start over, Eliot Starbard, chairman of the Oakham board, said, “In the interest of where we’re at right now, and what it would cost to start over again, I say go forward, keep the schedule going, but we’re at the table for every choice from now on.”
Mr. Broderick said he was satisfied with the work that ATC had done to date, and wanted assurance the town would be represented in all project decisions to come.
Supt. Marshall said, “Ultimately this is a collaborative choice. If not, there has to be ground rules as to who has the final say on what happens.”
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