Engineer report on the Union School at a standstill

By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Union - posted Wed., Mar. 2, 2011
First Selectman, Albert L. "Andy" Goodhall, Jr., addresses concerns about the Union School during the Feb. 22 Board of Selectmen meeting. Photos by Lauri Voter.
First Selectman, Albert L. "Andy" Goodhall, Jr., addresses concerns about the Union School during the Feb. 22 Board of Selectmen meeting. Photos by Lauri Voter.

Residents of the town of Union who are waiting for the results of the engineering assessment of the Union School can expect to continue waiting.

In the wake of the Feb. 7 school evacuation, town officials announced at the Feb. 7 Board of Selectmen meeting that engineers from H.L. Turner Associates ( would conduct a truss-by-truss study during that week.

In lieu, the architects countered with a proposal for $5,000 to conduct the survey.

In a memo from H.L. Turner Group Inc. to Ron Rickey, chair of the School Building Committee, “We have been requested, by the owner to do an overall inspection of the roof structure. We estimate the fee to be $5,000. This includes 2 engineers on site for a full day, travel time, and report. This does not include designing of solutions to issues which may be found. Repair strategies, if required, could be designed by our firm, at an additional fee or you may wish to work directly with the truss manufacturer. If you wish to retain our services for this work, we will provide a written proposal for review and signature.”

Town officials are still trying to decide how to proceed. This may be no easy task, considering that the Feb. 22 Board of Selectmen meeting revealed what seemed to be extensive in-fighting and indecisiveness amongst interested parties.

During that Feb. 22 Board of Selectmen meeting, First Selectman Albert L. “Andy” Goodhall, Jr., on behalf of the Board of Selectmen, presented a resolution to “get everybody's responsibilities in order,” said Goodhall, referring to care and maintenance of the school building.

“We've been at a standstill for a while, and we're trying to break the dam which is holding everything up. The machine is not working,” said Goodhall.

The Board of Selectmen, in order to close out the school building project and move on with remediation, attempted to get the process moving via the resolution, which drummed up plenty of discussion, but no solutions.

While the resolution had been circulating for several days with no feedback, the resolution was immediately shot down at the selectmen's meeting by members of the School Building Committee.

Although the School Building Committee has not held a formal meeting since August of 2010, committee member Mike Jellen pushed back on Goodhall, saying that the Board of Selectmen was attempting to take over control of the school project, and on a personal front exclaimed “Andy, you've been trying to take over this project since the day you became elected.”

School Building Committee member Steve Babbitt referred to the resolution as “diaper fodder,” and threatened to resign the committee and have “nothing to do with the school building ever again.”

“The problems of the school are getting greater and greater, and things aren't getting resolved. Somebody has to take responsibility at some point. The school building committee is going to have to work with the board of selectmen to get things resolved, or disband,” said Goodhall.

“One of my concerns is that the advisory sub-committee seemed to be taking on some of the tasks of the building committee, and ultimately trying to find some of the answers that the building committee was supposed to provide,” said Board of Education Chair Andrea Estell.

Newly-appointed Interim Superintendent, Joseph J. Reardon, while on one hand tried to show support of the School Building Committee, also pointed out that the school is the town's building.

With each party taking his or her own corner, nothing was resolved at that meeting. The Board of Education and the Building Facilities Advisory Subcommittee will each discuss the issues at respective meetings. The next Board of Selectmen meeting is scheduled for March 7.

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