Volunteers come through to clear school roof
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Voluntown - posted Mon., Feb. 21, 2011
As it has done so often in times of necessity, the “town of volunteers” rallied to the call earlier this month - this time to battle the forces of nature.
About 40 people showed up after less than a day’s notice, armed with snow shovels and snow blowers, to clear 90 tons of snow from the roof of Voluntown Elementary School on Feb. 6. Their efforts in the face of yet another heavy snowstorm helped forestall the threat of a roof collapse, which many structures throughout the state have suffered this winter.
School Superintendent Adam Burrows said that the school’s roof was closely monitored throughout this season’s back-to-back snowstorms for signs of structural weakness, but none were detected.
“We felt that things were very safe,” he said. “We were just fine even when we had a full load of snow.”
But when the state’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security issued a notice Feb. 5 to the state’s school officials, urging snow removal from roofs during a lull in the weather, local building officials took it seriously. “It’s easier to do when you have good weather,” said First Selectman Ron Millovitsch.
Town Building Inspector Peter Zvingilas and Millovitsch inspected the roof that Saturday and decided that prudence dictated removal of snow from the school’s older sections. The roofs of the gym, the junior high and the new addition were deemed safe enough to leave alone, Burrows said.
Word went out that day, all across town, said Millovitsch. The local fire department was notified, as were the town’s three churches - Voluntown Baptist Church, St. Thomas/St. Ann Catholic Church and Living Word Fellowship - and other community members. By 10 a.m. Sunday, about 40 people showed up, ready to shovel.
One of them was Burrows himself. “People didn’t recognize me at first,” he said with a chuckle. “I had my fishing cap and boots on. I could not stay away. I had to come to the school and help out.”
Millovitsch said that Burrows even went out on a doughnut run at midday, returning with doughnuts and a box of coffee for the work crew. “All the time was donated,” even by one of the town’s Public Works employees, he said.
The workers spent four hours shoveling snow into bins, which were then dumped over the side of the roof. The town’s backhoe was kept busy clearing the sidewalks.
“Everybody was very energetic. There was a lot of spirit,” said Burrows. The crew paid close attention to safety and to assuring that the roof wasn’t damaged in the process.
“This is Voluntown,” said Burrows. “The true spirit of volunteers is present here.”
Millovitsch agreed. “Voluntown was named for volunteers, and they continue on,” he said.