R. H. Conwell Repairs

           As many are already aware, the Selectboard has been working for some time on a project to upgrade the 1971 addition to the Conwell Elementary School. This is the portion that contains the gymnasium/cafeteria, the art room, another classroom and some hallways connecting it to the original school.

           Discussions about a renovation project began after a heating pipe freeze-up caused some damage to the art room. In the process of doing repairs, and with the valuable help of local architect and Town Moderator Kevin O’Connor, we determined that the major problem was the lack of insulation in the exterior envelope of the addition. There is none at all in the sloped ceilings and in the gymnasium/cafeteria wall facing the street. We also learned that the peeling siding was due to no insulation and vapor barrier issues. In addition, there is evidence of sprinkler system problems that are likely due to faulty on-site pipe-threading work when the system was installed. As a result of the above, and with the help of a state grant to evaluate town infrastructure needs obtained in 2019 with Steve Kulik’s help, we hired Laura Fitch, an area architect, to develop a plan to tackle both issues.

           In early Spring, 2020, as we were preparing to go to bid, Covid-19 derailed our plans to bring a ready to go project proposal to Town Meeting with work to be done that Summer. The project was then professionally estimated to cost approximately $400,000.00, exclusive of architect fees.

           In January we again determined to put the project out to bid and did so on March 3rd. Due apparently to the easing of the Covid crisis and pent-up construction demand, we received only one state-mandated sub-bid for sprinkler work. That was rejected and re-solicited in late March as it was over twice our professional cost estimate from a year earlier.

           General contractor bids were opened on April 14th and the news was even worse. Although 3 bids were received, the lowest was $535,000.00 not including Sprinkler replacement which would have raised the total cost to an estimated $585,000.00. It further appeared very unlikely that we would get any sprinkler sub-bids at all, even after directly contacting all state-certified sprinkler sub-contractors in the state. Again, the most apparent reasons for this disappointing result is a combination of pent-up public and commercial construction demand together with extremely large increases in lumber and other construction material prices along with supply shortages.

           As a result, the Selectboard, after consulting with the Finance and School Committees on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, has voted to reject the general bids and to cancel the sprinkler re-bid that was scheduled for opening April 21st. We are now planning to re-examine the project scope and the possibility of re-bidding and undertaking the work either entirely or in stages, starting next Summer. It doesn’t appear likely that we’ll be able to do any of the project work this year which — especially considering the unsightly peeling siding, is very unfortunate. However, we strongly believe that the project costs obtained to date were simply too high to justify seeking Town approval at this time.    

Steve Smith
Worthington Select Board

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