New water leaks postpone transfer of Coleytown Middle School to BOE

WESTPORT — Coleytown Middle School’s daily maintenance and management will remain with the building committee for at least another month following some leaks.

The school experienced some water leaks, springing from the impact of Hurricane Ida and heavy rainfall, and has had to tweak, adjust and replace some parts of the HVAC equipment. Don O’Day, the committee chair said more work is needed before the building committee can comfortably relinquish control to the Board of Education.

“First, and most importantly, CMS is safe,” O’Day said at a meeting this week.

“Along with CMS Project Manager Susan Chipouras, I will continue to be on-site almost every day, as I have been for more than two years,” he added. “I will do this until we hand-off the building in another 30 days, assuming no issues.”

The Representative Town Meeting established the Coleytown Middle School Building Committee in March 2019 and charged them to renovate the shuttered middle school by August 2020. The school had closed in September 2018 for mold problems.

In June 2019, the building committee proposed a plan to replace every window, install a completely new roof, install new lighting throughout the building, regrade the exterior grounds to keep water from the building, install a new exterior skin, and design a new library, media center and science rooms. It also would install a “state of the art” HVAC system, including in the gym.

The plan also included painting and cleaning everything.

The $32 million proposal was unanimously approved by the town’s funding bodies in July of 2019.

“We immediately got to work,” O’Day said. “Every item we proposed was completed.”

CMS safely reopened for students this year on Jan. 5, after experiencing a four-month delay due to COVID.

O’Day said when Hurricane Ida hit the town in late August, some issues with water leaks were left over.

Specifically, a water leak came from a roof drain that wasn’t properly tightened. O’Day said repairs were made, inside and out, and there have not been any reoccurring problems.

A second issue came from an HVAC unit, where rain blew into the unit itself and then dripped down onto the ceiling tile in the conference room.

The same HVAC problem happened again during the heavy rain on Oct. 26.

“I will now install a hood on that HVAC unit,” O’Day said. “The hood will prevent wind-swept rain from entering the unit without affecting performance.”

Some additional water leaks were also found following the Oct. 26 rain, including an improperly sealed electrical conduit pipe that services one of the HVAC units, as well as a window unit that leaked due to a clogged weep hole — a hole that allows water to properly drain during rain.

O’Day said that theses fixes are scheduled and did not cause any damage.

“I’m going to wait 30 days to make sure all is well before coming back to the BOE,” O’Day said.

When O’Day returns to the board, the building committee will seek reimbursement from the state for eligible school construction costs. The estimate from the state is believed to exceed $4 million which will go directly to the general fund.

However, final the state reimbursement approval requires the school board to accept the building renovation.

Once accepted, the BOE and school maintenance staff will assume day-to-day control of CMS.