Residents know the problems that have plagued McGee Middle School in the past several years.
The town and Town Council have addressed the problems, which have ranged from fumes in the building, leaking problems due to a problem with the roof, proper air ventilation and transformers and generator problems on the roof.
While work on a supplementary transformer is scheduled to be done by the end of this school vacation week, work has just begun on installing more than 800 wall braces, which were discovered missing on non-weight bearing walls.
Tuesday night, the Town Council voted 4-1 (Democrat William Watson and Republican Eric Buhrendorf were absent) to transfer money from two accounts to pay $406,708 and not more than $444,908 to Newfield Construction to install the braces.
When work was being done on the roof, a drill went through to an area and the opening showed that some walls did not have any bracing. There were found to be approximately 800 spots where bracing should be in place.
The town went out to bid for the job but received no bids back. The Council majority decided to hire Newfield to do the job since it has done much of the work and according to the Council knows the school inside and out.
To pay for the job, the Council voted 4-1 (Republican David Evans was the dissenting vote) to transfer $235,000 from McGee School Roof - Capital Items Buildings and Renovations to McGee School Roof -Wall Braces to fund the McGee School Wall Brace Project.
The Council also had to adopt a "Resolution Making Certain Findings With Respect to Unexpended Capital Project Grant Proceeds of the Town and Appropriating Said Proceeds for Capital Purposes” and transfer $219,908 from the Griswold Schools Relocatables Project to the Transfers to Other Funds account. The town will also transfer $219,908 from the Interest Payments – Schools (Issue of 2009) account to the Transfers to Other Funds account to fund the McGee School Wall Brace Project.
The school was built in 1968 and according to code for that time the braces should have been installed. When asked by Evans if the code calls for the same bracing now, Public Works Director said, "The code would likely be much more stringent than it was in 1968.
"They are non weight bearing masonry walls and I have seen where if a few guys push on them really hard they can move them. This work can begin and be done by August 15."
While the structural strength of the building is solid, the town was told only a "seismic event" could or would knock the walls down.
"With the addition of the transformer, you can argue we didn't need it but to have the peace of mind that we won't have to evacuate our students, it is important," Mayor Adam Salina said. "With the wall braces, in my opinion, you can't argue. If you're going to tell me after the year we had with an earthquake, a hurricane and an October snowstorm that it can't happen here, I'll tell you I'd rather be safe than sorry.
"This is a dirty job with a lot of welding and it's not attractive so we didn't get any bids. With welding, we won't want kids to be in school and have to evacuate again. We need to get back some parent confidence and some faculty confidence in that school.
"McGee has been a school in turmoil for a lot of years now with evacuations, fumes, power outages and roof and power problems. We hope this will be the last issue we have to deal with so that when the kids go back in early August we are confident the school is the best it can be."