Convicted felon fired from mold remediation job
WESTPORT — The contractor hired to remove mold from Coleytown Middle School was convicted several years ago of falsifying soil test results in a scheme aimed at defrauding clients out of tens of thousands of dollars for unnecessary work.
But the Westport school system only discovered that in February, after a selection process that apparently did not uncover the information before the contract was signed, despite widespread local media coverage of his crimes in 2009.
The contractor, Michael Zubarev, headed the mold remediation at Coleytown from August until February, when the school district enlisted another firm to do the job. Zubarev, 49, of Brooks Environmental Consulting, pled guilty to first-degree larceny and conspiracy charges in 2010, for felony crimes he committed in 2005. Zubarev was fired in February.
“It most recently came to my attention,” said Elio Longo, school business operations director. Following this revelation, Longo hired Hygenix to complete work over February break, which began the 20th. “It came to my attention, yes, and it is why we sought the services of a different company,” Longo said.
Longo maintains Zubarev’s previous test results are accurate. “We do trust Zubarev’s results because we’re finding similar results in other classrooms.”
Zubarev declined to comment.
Brooks Environmental’s website still lists the town of Westport and the Westport Board of Education as clients.
Town Finance Director Gary Conrad said Westport has worked with Brooks Environmental as far back as 2009, the year Zubarev was arrested. “Brooks Environmental did lead testing at Kings Highway Elementary in 2009,” Conrad said.
Since then, the town has also hired Brooks Environmental for work on Wakeman Town Farm and the Saugatuck train station parking lot. “Brooks Environmental did some lead testing at Wakeman Town Farm and verified soil testing at the Saugatuck Railroad Parking lot. All the other purchase orders are over on the school side,” he said.
Zubarev has been contracted for school district jobs for several years, according to Longo, but the number of jobs the school district contracted out to Brooks Environmental is unclear, and Longo declined to comment further on specifics pertaining to the school’s business with Zubarev and Brooks Environmental.
The mold contamination issue at Coleytown is far from over. As of April 7, $365,275 has been spent on eliminating potentially toxic and common molds, putting a huge dent in the school board’s carryover account. The account, which started the fiscal year with $531,894, is down to $143,119, and Longo said he expects the mold project to completely deplete the account, with the possibility of going beyond that. Mold has been the sole expense of the carryover account, with the exception of a $23,500 expenditure for an enrollment study in connection with possible redistricting.
“In all likelihood, we will deplete the current balance of the carryover on mold remediation,” Longo said.
Out of 34 rooms and two hallways flagged for possible mold contamination, 22 rooms have been inspected, with 12 requiring the removal of mold. The classrooms to be inspected over April break are: room 205, an eighth-grade language arts classroom; 206 A, a reading support classroom for all grades, and room 206 B, an academic support classroom for all grades.
The two hallways are to be addressed in the summer and could prove to be the most expensive work. “Depending on what is identified or found in the two hallways, I do envision the cost of mold remediation exceeding $500,000 in total,” Longo said.