Frustrated school officials refuse to take control of troubled offices
Problems that have plagued 35 Leroy Ave. since the Board of Education's administrative offices moved there in April 2013 are continuing, and the board vows not to take control of the building until the issues are resolved.
"There is a lot of work left to be done in the building," Board of Education Chairwoman Betsy Hagerty-Ross said Tuesday. "There are a lot of unknowns, especially the heat."
Heat has been a consistent problem in the building that was once the Darien Library. Last winter, the meeting room was sometimes so cold that parents and board members were forced to wear winter coats.
Even in the last two weeks, the heat didn't work on three of the coldest days, according to Michael Lynch, director of school facilities.
"I'm deeply disturbed by the overall haphazard way this building has been renovated and put together," board member Callie Sullivan said.
The Board of Education moved its central administration offices from Town Hall to 35 Leroy Ave. during the "shuffle" project, which moved the senior center out of the aging building at 30 Edgerton St. and into the new Mather Community Center at Town Hall.
The changes also moved the Board of Education offices to the newly renovated building on Leroy Avenue.
However, during the first phase of the project -- the renovation of the library -- the general contractor in charge of the project was unable to complete the work or pay its subcontractors. The town awarded a new contract to Gar-San Corp. of Berlin to finish the multi-million dollar project.
"The punch list was never done when the contractor went bust and we moved in," Hagerty-Ross said.
The employees who work at 35 Leroy Ave. have also dealt with "odd" smells coming from the basement, which Lynch said was resolved, and a leaking roof in the meeting room.
Hagerty-Ross said the Board of Education has paid to have the roof repaired five times because of leaks.
"There has to be a time that this stops," Hagerty-Ross said about the board fronting the costs for some repairs to the building.
Sullivan told the board that she doesn't feel the school district should have to pay for any of the repairs to the building.
"We're not being ignored," Lynch said. "They're very frustrated from the town side, too."
Lynch told the board that David Campbell, the chairman of the shuffle building committee, has been "responsive" and routinely visits the building.
"Being responsive and getting stuff done is two different things," board member David Dineen said.
Hagerty-Ross told the board that before the building renovation began that concerns about several problem areas of the building -- the roof, the windows -- were expressed.
Engineers have been to the building several times since school district administrators were moved to address the heating issues, but they persist.
"The computers said the heat was on, but the heat wasn't on," Lynch said about one of the recent cold days.
Hagerty-Ross told the meeting that the Board of Education has not accepted the building as its own and that it still belongs to the town.
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