Problems with LHS reno extend to auto room

Problems with LHS reno extend to auto room

Chad Healey, of Owner’s Project Manager Colliers International, stands in the future auto repair lab at Lincoln High School last August. The space is experiencing issues nearly one year later. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – As construction at Lincoln High School wraps up, those overseeing the project are still voicing frustration rather than celebrating the impending completion.

Members of the LHS Building Committee, which oversees the project, sounded off during last Thursday’s meeting about their growing list of concerns with certain areas of the school.

Member Michael Babbitt said the town will face lawsuits in the future if the current conditions in the automotive classroom are allowed to continue.

In addition to having temperature control issues in the auto lab, Babbitt said a drain was installed on the floor without the floor being pitched toward the drain. As a result, water has begun to seep into the walls and causing new equipment to rust.

Babbitt suggested withholding money from the project contractors until the problems are resolved, then handed over a figurative microphone to Kurt Steinberg.

Steinberg, who works as an engineer, building official, and code enforcement officer, argued that while plumbing and building codes don’t specifically address “how you treat a floor when you put in a drain,” codes suggest following industry standards.

In the case of the concrete auto shop floor, he said, the proper protocols weren’t followed for the materials used.

“I don’t think what’s installed was essentially the value that the town and taxpayer should be getting from the material put in,” he said. “The installation is required to follow the installation instructions.”

Steinberg shared his concerns with SMMA, the project’s architecture firm, by email.

Representatives from SMMA responded that the section of code pertaining to an auto repair garage does not require a sloped floor.

Committee member and Town Councilor Bruce Ogni said the town shouldn’t have to pay up to fix the problem, the latest in a string of issues with the reconstruction of the school.

“How does it become our fault if you people were hired to do this job? We didn’t design it,” he said. “It’s common sense … the drain is there for a purpose. I mean, good god.”

Phil Gould agreed that sloping the floor toward the drain is common sense, noting that when the animal shelter was renovated, the concrete floors were installed that way.

Babbitt said there are also “extensive cracks” in the concrete floor, that repairs had to be made to the garage doors to stop them from banging in the wind, and that the space has had “all kinds of issues with heating and now cooling.”

“Now we have water leaking up the walls and oil dripping onto the floor. You can’t tell me you’re going to have an auto garage and assume oil won’t be on the floor. All these issues combined, it’s just hit after hit after hit,” he said. “It’s a million errors in this room, and now you have a man who writes code telling you this doesn’t meet code.”

Steinberg clarified that the code suggests following the manufacturer’s recommendations, and that the manufacturer recommends sloping multiple types of materials toward the drain.

Babbitt agreed with Ogni that the town shouldn’t be saddled with the cost of repairing the floors.

No matter who pays, several members of the committee agreed that the problem needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

“This is a problem we know about. If somebody falls, how do we get away from that lawsuit?” Babbitt asked. “We can’t abandon that space, it’s part of our educational facility. So how do we fix this problem?”

Representatives from SMMA maintained that the floor doesn’t need to be sloped under the code, but they agreed to research and present the committee with options for fixing the floor. That could include lowering the drain or grinding down the concrete to make a trench to the drain.

Babbitt added that they’d have to “redo $15,000 in epoxy” on top of that.

As far as the cracks in the floor, Babbitt said the slab technically meets tolerance specifications. The floor is exceptionally thick to handle the weight of vehicles, he said, making it “a very expensive slab to pout in the first place.”

Standing water in the lab isn’t just impacting the epoxy finish, Babbitt said. The equipment is beginning to rust, and he said water “wicking” up the sheetrock walls could lead to mold.

Ogni said his main concern is that the fix will come at taxpayers’ expense.

“I’d like to not battle with people. I’d like to just get things right and resolved,” he said, adding that he “foresees a lot of legal battles here” if the problem is allowed to persist.

“The town has always done the right thing on this project and our garbage every time it was thrown at us,” he added. “Here we are again.”

With respect to the cooling problem, SMMA representatives said the fix is as simple as adjusting a thermostat setting.

When an air compressor in the lab gets too hot, it trips a system that vents out hot air.

Representatives said the thermostat was prematurely tripped during the recent heatwave, and that hot air was recirculating into the room.

Julie Zito, co-chairwoman of the committee, asked the project team for a report on whether the temperature issue has been corrected.


Lincoln desperately needs LEADERSHIP instead of chickens running around with their heads cut off.

I am not a resident of Lincoln but after reading this article this really ticks me off . I have been in the building construction /management trade for 40 years have opened many a new building and have faced these kind of issues . These projects are built by union people that are supposed to be the best in the business and know the proper way to pitch a floor towards a drain . Sloppy workmanship that all it is.I would make them rip up the floor and do it right or forfeit payment.As far as climate control that can be corrected by making adjustments per design .If not have the mechanical engineer that design the system show you how it works.The taxpayers of Lincoln deserved what they paid for and that exactly what they should get . DO NOT let them get away with anything .Once they leave or 1 year is up then it will be the towns problem and you will pay twice for the same job. What ever you do DO NOT PAY THEM.