By Scott Whipple
New Britain Herald
BERLIN — Air-quality testing at McGee Middle School found no substances in concentrations above acceptable levels, officials told parents Wednesday night.
However, those parents had a barrage of questions for town and environmental officials at Wednesday’s hearing. And, they wasted little time firing away.
Following a presentation from interim School Superintendent Mark Winzler on the recent closings of McGee and the possible causes of the foul fumes that caused the closings, Dr. Kevin Miller of Fuss & O’Neill reported on the air testing his firm did.
Miller said that eight metals and 61 volatile organic compounds turned up in testing.
Rob Heyl Parents nearly filled the auditorium at McGee Middle School in Berlin, listening to administrators speak about the school’s closure for air issues.
“Results of all samplings were satisfactory,” he said. “Samples were either below reporting limits or under regulatory guidelines.”
However, several concerned parents who earlier had toured the school lined up at microphones for their turn to sound off. They had questions about safety and air quality for Mayor Adam Salina, Board of Education President Gary Brochu and representatives from public works, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the firm of Fuss & O’Neill.
Former Board of Education member John Richards wanted to know why no information had been provided about the symptoms and what action could be taken to make sure staff and students are safe.
Fire Marshal Steve Waznia said the odor was caused by roof repair operations and when discovered it was stopped and the building ventilated.
Brochu said work is proceeding on McGee renovations including HVAC work. He added that he will form a committee to identify valuable information on the issue and put it on the board’s Web site.
Joan Angelico said she has children in their 20s and recalled thath when they were at McGee buckets were used whenever the roof leaked.
MaryAnn Hagmeier said her child would not enroll in McGee until the air-quality issue was resolved.
Timothy Oakes, an unsuccessful candidate for Berlin School Board, had several concerns. He wanted to know how long the testing had been going on and what the cost was.
After hearing responses from officials Karen Silva said she still didn’t have a clear answer to what’s causing this problem.
“What has been found?” she asked. “What will be different tomorrow when the school opens?”
Brian Mayer complimented McGee Principal Brian Benigni for his conduct during the recent air-quality crisis. However, Mayer pointed out that the air-quality problem dated back to 1995 when Bonnie Therrien was town manager.
“We’ve dropped the ball as a town,” he said to applause from the nearly packed auditorium. He went on to say that even though he was unemployed he would send his children to private schools rather than have them attend McGee.
Building Maintenance Superintendent John Pajor said the school system has an ongoing maintenance program based on a federal model and that all Connecticut schools follow it.
Public Works Director Art Simonian acknowledged the bucket problem but said when the roof is completely replaced there will be minimal interruptions. There will be more control points and training will be done by the contractor.
Several people complained that the project, already approved by the council, will take two years to complete. However, Simonian said the main reason for length was the desire to do the work when students are on vacation with few interruptions.
Mayor Adam Salina said work on the new HVAC system will begin in June.
Brochu explained that although the school board has no maintenance responsibility, “We were the ones who commissioned the study at McGee and many of us have been vilified for it. This is a long-term project that will take commitment from all of us. Hopefully, as a community we can go forward.”
Salina acknowledged that it is difficult when “you can’t find the culprit.” But he stressed that the town had been using “a Band-Aid” approach for far too long and “now at last something is done to resolve the air quality problem.”
© Copyright 2010 The New Britain Herald
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