Coleytown mold removal nears $600K price tag
Updated 5:10 pm, Friday, August 18, 2017
WESTPORT — The cost for a still ongoing project to remove mold from Coleytown Middle School classrooms and hallways is nearing $600,000, in line with school officials’ predictions earlier this summer.
Mold was removed from eight classrooms this summer in addition to 19 where remediation work had already been done, Director of School Business Operations Elio Longo said. For the 27 total classrooms and a first-floor hallway where mold removal has been completed, the project’s price tag is $543,876 so far, though Longo estimated $35,000-$40,000 in additional bills for work that was completed this summer.
Testing is ongoing for a second-floor hallway and six remaining second-floor classrooms. The number of classrooms requiring testing and price estimations have continued to rise since mold was originally discovered in 2016.
Longo attributes the changes to the mold being sealed behind walls, and said whether more will be found is therefore difficult to estimate. But he did estimate the remaining six classrooms will be the last to be tested and that he believes the cost of that remediation would be around $90,000.
The mold removal project has already depleted the school board’s carryover account — a rainy-day fund that had about half a million dollars in it a year ago. Its balance is currently about $96,000, all of which will go to mold remediation.
“This is an excellent example of the intended purpose of the Board of Education carryover fund,” Longo said, noting its purpose as one-time needed expenditures that arise unexpectedly.
Longo and Superintendent Colleen Palmer asked the Board of Finance to transfer nearly half of about $717,000 in savings from last year’s budget into the carryover account earlier this month. The finance board gave its approval, which is contingent upon Board of Education concurrence later this month.
If approved, $327,075 would go into the account and the remaining surplus would be transferred to the town. At least $30,000 would be immediately needed for mold removal bills that the district already received.
The project also changed hands this year.
Westport Public Schools employed Michael Zubarev — who had pled guilty to 2005 first-degree larceny and conspiracy charges in 2010 — from the start of the project until February. After firing Zubarev, of Brooks Environmental Consulting, they hired Hygenix but did not retest Zubarev’s results.