Problems crop up with new town hall elevator

  • The new back entrance to Royalston Town Hall, which also houses the building’s new elevator. Town officials need to find funds to install moisture barriers in the elevator pit. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 7/27/2020 5:31:01 PM
Modified: 7/27/2020 5:30:55 PM

ROYALSTON — Members of the Selectboard last Tuesday expressed displeasure over the fact that additional work must be done on the recently completed Town Hall elevator. Board Chair Deb D’Amico said the issue of water infiltrating the elevator pit needs to be addressed.

The elevator pit is a portion of the shaft which extend below the bottom landing to provide for possible overtravel and clearance. It also provides space for elevator parts installed below the bottom limit of the car.

D’Amico presented the board with a proposal from Kurtz Construction of Westfield, submitted to the town last November, to provide an additional moisture barrier in the pit. The cost of the work is pegged at $8,257.

“I assume there’s no money left in the grant,” said board member Chris Long.

In January 2019, the board signed a contract to pay Kurtz $890,000 to install the elevator. Most of that amount came from a Community Development Block Grant shared by the towns of Royalston and Phillipston.

“I believe at the time that this was proposed, there was no money left,” D’Amico said.

D’Amico said she was also surprised to find in Kurtz’s proposal an item recommending repair of a crack in the foundation.

“A brand new foundation — they put it in — and it’s got a crack in it?” asked board member Roland Hamel.

“I have questions about this whole thing,” D’Amico said. “I don’t understand why water gathering in that pit wasn’t addressed up front by the architect and engineer before ground was even broken. I don’t understand how the fact that the common has a very high water table was not taken into consideration when this was designed.

“And even if we say ‘go ahead, put the moisture barrier in there,’ the elevator car has to be moved out of the way, and that is an extra expense. So, this is a nightmare.”

An incredulous D’Amico continued: “Whoever decided to hold off on this until the spring, when the water table is high — if that was the plan, then why was that car put into the elevator shaft before that decision was made? There are all kinds of questions around this.”

“Kevin Flynn being missing in action, he was in effect the clerk of the works,” Long interjected. “Without him, we had no one acting as clerk of the works. So, I’m not sure how all this ultimately happened, but that’s probably why.”

“I agree,” Hamel quickly replied. “The ball was dropped. Everybody kept trying to get ahold of him and that’s where the ball was dropped; that and COVID.”

Flynn, the chief administrative officer for the town of Phillipston, served as grant administrator on the project.

“Kevin Flynn was our grants coordinator; he was not in charge of this construction project,” said D’Amico in Flynn’s defense. “His role was to manage that grant. So, I don’t know who was in charge of overseeing (construction). We can spend hours trying to point fingers, but we need to move forward here.”

Reached by the Athol Daily News, Flynn said, “Deb essentially got it right. I was not the clerk of the works then and I’m not the clerk of the works now. I administered the grant. And the work they’re talking about now was not part of the grant project.”

D’Amico went on to suggest the town seek legal counsel to see if some of the cost of the project can be recouped, “from either the engineer, the architect — somebody.”

The board decided to call a meeting with those involved in the project to find out what happened and how much all the work to waterproof the pit will likely cost.

“I think the taxpayers of this town deserve to have some solid answers on how this came to be and where the ball was dropped,” D’Amico concluded.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com

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