GHS Construction

School building group will appoint new chairman

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield High School Building Committee will choose a new chairman at its next meeting, after three years under the leadership of former School Committee member Keith McCormic.

McCormic told committee members at a meeting Tuesday that he and his wife are moving to Texas next month. Lane Kelly, the committee’s clerk, said Mayor William Martin will seek nominations for chairman at the next meeting and then members will vote.

Robert Tombs has served for the past three years as the committee’s vice-chairman.

Kelly added that Martin may also soon appoint two new voting members to the building committee. The School Committee does not have a designated representative and may choose to appoint one member, she said. Martin is chairman of the School Committee but wears the hat of mayor while on the building committee.

More discussion on gas leak

A series of events led to the gas leak that occurred earlier this month on the Greenfield High School construction site, said Matthew Lafond, project superintendent for Shawmut Design and Construction.

The foreman supervising that area was out that day and workers, while aware of the gas line, operated machinery too close and hit the main, he said.

Nearby roads were shut down, a few houses were evacuated and 27 firefighters rushed to the scene — dousing the line with water for close to three hours to disperse the gas until Berkshire Gas could shut down the main.

There is still plenty of planned construction work around the gas lines, Lafond told the committee. Procedures for safely working around them are being reassessed.

“From the operator to the foreman to the outside super, they were pretty deflated, pretty dejected,” he said. He added that the company is glad that there was no property damage, no personal injuries and that the incident occurred during school vacation.

“When you’re the beekeeper, sometimes you get stung,” said Lafond. “It’s not really the answer we want. I’m not saying it’s excusable. It was avoidable.”

Aluminum over copper

After a 90-minute presentation from subcontractor Wayne J. Griffin Electric, Inc., the building committee voted 5-1 Tuesday to use some aluminum wires on the project instead of copper. It will save the building committee $178,000.

The change will only apply to wires carrying 100 amps of electricity or more, so it will not affect most of the wires that run throughout the building. Wayne Griffin and his employees said that aluminum is of equal quality but less expensive than copper. It is dramatically better than aluminum made decades ago, they said.

Lead Architect Lee Dore said that his firm’s engineer, Fitzmeyer & Tocci, opposed the change because it feared it would add more long-term maintenance costs to the project.

Some committee members, including Superintendent Susan Hollins, expressed dismay that an engineer from that company did not attend the meeting to state its case.

Griffin said that his company disagreed on the maintenance claim. He pledged to do several free check-ups on the project in the years that follow and said he will invite Greenfield employees to tag along so they can learn the best maintenance practices.

Tombs pointed out that even though the committee is saving $178,000, 80 percent of that was going to be reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. If the committee wanted to spend that money elsewhere, it runs the risk of choosing a project that the school building authority would not approve to reimburse.

That, along with additional design work that now needs be done to account for the change, led Tombs to vote against the proposal. Hollins abstained.

Griffin’s company was the only bidder for electrical services on the project. Greenfield is paying the company $5.98 million but asked Griffin to find some ways to save money to help keep the project under budget, said the town’s project manager Jim Byrne. This switch to aluminum was the contractor’s response to that request.

Parking for students

There is temporary parking available for high school faculty and some visitors, but none for students who drive to school.

Students parked on back streets for the final three months of school last year, which led to some complaints from local residents, Kelly told the committee Tuesday.

Committee members and town officials are exploring several ideas, including limiting parking to one side of the road. The committee may also ask some nearby churches if their parking lots can be rented out during the day for students.

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