Tisbury selectmen met with school officials to discuss mold and mildew remediation at the Tisbury School during Wednesday’s meeting.
Superintendent Matt D’Andrea and school committee member Amy Houghton recommended withdrawing a warrant article for $400,000 to originally be used for mold testing and remediation at the Tisbury School, then adding those funds to the professional services article.
Selectman Jim Rogers made two separate motions: one to eliminate the mold remediation warrant article, and the other to use those funds to increase the professional services warrant for the Tisbury School to up to $800,000.
Houghton told selectmen that the teachers union submitted information to the Massachusetts Teachers Association regarding the moldy building, in hopes that the state would help pay.
After an inspector from the state looked over the school, the teachers association decided it would not pay for any of the testing or remediation, because the building envelope is not secure.
“As long as there is moisture that still gets into the building, there is always going to be the likelihood of mold,” Houghton said.
Only after the building is secured and ventilated properly will the state provide any type of support to the school.
According to Houghton, the state will have a comprehensive report of the necessary fixes the school must undergo before remediation can begin. “We hope to have that report by the end of the week,” Houghton said.
A preliminary report conducted by the state indicated that securing the building envelope would be more than just a matter of replacing windows; problems with the HVAC system would need to be addressed as well. “All those things make for a much larger endeavor than just doing mold testing and fixing a few windows,” Houghton said.
Houghton said the school committee voted during their Tuesday meeting to eliminate the mold and mildew testing and remediation article, then add those funds to the professional services warrant article to be used for renovation.
“The thought is that if we have our combined meeting on March 12, we could come together and collectively prepare for town meeting,” Houghton said. “That way we can know — this is what we are going to do with this money, this is why we need it.”
Houghton also suggested hiring an owner’s project manager (OPM) to push forward a legitimate proposal for the renovation and addition. She suggested using the preexisting plans already paid for by the town as a starting point. “Yes, we can increase professional services, but we need to be in agreement as to where we are going with this project,” Houghton said.
Rogers agreed with Houghton that the building needs to be airtight before anything can be done about mold.
For Rogers, the large price tag communicated to the public was a concern. “We can take the recommendation to add the $400,000, but I don’t think we are going to need $800,000 based on conversations with the existing OPM,” he said. “I think putting that big price tag on a town meeting warrant will scare the public.”
Rogers also said that because the town is up against a Proposition 2½ override, the cost of that item could always be reduced at town meeting.
“We need to show a real combined effort toward getting this project off the ground,” Rogers said.
Chair of the board Tristan Israel agreed with Rogers that there would need to be more than $410,000 in professional services. “I am in support of doing this recommendation; we can always amend down if we need to.” Israel said. “The school committee and the selectmen really should be on the same page about these plans; it would send a powerful message to the public.”
Town administrator Jay Grande said he also anticipates spending “far more” than the original amount, based on the project value. He reiterated Houghton’s point that instead of losing time between now and town meeting, proactive steps should be taken by the selectmen and the school committee to present good information to the public.