Picozzi on water damage, cracking at LHS: ‘It’s unacceptable’

Picozzi on water damage, cracking at LHS: ‘It’s unacceptable’

Heavy rains over Christmas break damaged a number of ceiling tiles in the home economics area of the school. (Breeze photos by Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – Over Christmas break, a ceiling tile in the newly completed copy room/mail center off the main office at Lincoln High School came crashing down in a sopping mess. Elsewhere in the school, moisture seeped in after the heavy holiday rainfall, leaving brown water stains on the newly installed ceiling tiles and freshly painted walls.

School Committee member John Picozzi, who walked through the school last week, said he was disappointed by the water damage and other faults in the recently completed areas, such as floors that aren’t level, cracks in cement, and buckling tiles and rusty partitions in student bathrooms.

“It’s unacceptable,” he said.

Picozzi said his criticism isn’t personal, though he sparred with members of the Building Committee last week in comments on a Breeze story reporting on issues with the recently renovated gym floor.

In a lengthy comment on the initial story, Picozzi accused members of the Building Committee of drinking before meetings, “coming out for some damage control occasionally when their feelings are hurt,” and misrepresenting the project overall.

The main problem, says Picozzi, is that the school bond should have been for $65 million rather than $60 million, or that the town should have asked taxpayers for a new school rather than a renovation/new construction.

Building Committee member Michael Babbitt called Picozzi’s comments pathetic and unwarranted.

“Mr. Picozzi wasn’t in the meeting early on in the project when we found a math error in the Excel sheets that the estimating team presented that increased the budget incorrectly. I don’t remember him offering his solution to how we would tell these taxpayers on fixed incomes that we needed another $5 million that was presented in error,” he said, adding that, “no one is looking to be in any type of popularity contest, this is a labor of love for our town and students and is taken very seriously.”

Town Administrator Joseph Almond also weighed in, adding that the project’s $60 million debt ceiling was not an arbitrary number chosen by any local interest. All told, he said the town’s total investment into the LHS project will be about $70 million with the infusion of capital reserve investments and the application of bond premiums.

A calmer Picozzi told The Breeze this week, “I just want those closely involved with the project to openly report both the good and the bad. I’m only asking for transparency, I’m not here to make anyone look bad.”

All politics and personal feelings aside, Picozzi said, “the pictures don’t lie,” and he has now twice toured recently completed areas of the school only to find stained or missing ceiling tiles and incorrectly pitched floors, among other issues.

Colliers International, the owner’s project manager hired to oversee the work at LHS, addressed some of the concerns at last week’s Building Committee meeting, saying there is some good news to report on the topic of the recently installed gym floor, which was deemed unacceptable by all involved.

The committee had voted last month to fix the majority of the floor, except the areas under the bleachers when closed, but contractors agreed last week to rip up the entire floor after moisture was found underneath it.

Derek Osterman, director of project management services for Colliers, told the committee that there are “no current water infiltration issues” occurring, but that Gilbane will, without cost, proceed to take up the bleachers and complete the gym floor restoration by the end of February.

On the topic of stained ceiling tiles and moisture in other areas of the building, Babbitt asked that the work be reviewed to ensure that it was done correctly.

“You can clearly see leaks coming down the wall and damaged tiles,” he said. “Someone said that was the original roof, not part of the project, but the concern is where the two roofs, old and new, meet up, and how that gap was sealed. We want to make sure someone is up there and resolving this before we have any more damage.”

Osterman said the project’s ceiling contractor was coming out on Monday of this week to replace all ceiling tiles where leaks have occurred.

A bucket collects water leaking from the ceiling near the entrance to the Lincoln High School auditorium.
Newly installed tiles in a recently renovated boys’ student bathroom appear to have begun buckling.