School board to tour Fairchild Wheeler’s building flaws

Ned Gerard photo
Ned Gerard photo

There are cracks in the cement stairwell right off the main office, warped cafeteria flooring and gaps between flashing on the roof that leaves the building exposed to the elements.

Bridgeport school board member Chris Taylor’s account of what he saw on a tour of the Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet Campus on Monday has all the members of the board of education prepared to take a look for themselves. The school is located in Trumbull and accepts students from numerous towns.

The full school board decided on Monday evening to hold off on voting to  =accept the $126.8 million project as complete for a second time, thus delaying the release of the remaining $5 million in state bonding on the project to the city.

“The things I saw are concerning,” Taylor told the board, adding it will be up to the school district’s meager facilities budget to correct issues that are not addressed.

On a tour of the 250,000 square foot plant with the facilities’ three principals, Taylor, who said he worked 30 years in construction before retiring, found areas on the roof that needed to be caulked, facade panels that don’t line up flush with the building and cracks in the roof’s rubberized membrane that he said could lead to mold and mildew damage.

The roof’s turbine system, however, works just fine. Along with solar panels and a water collection system, the building saves thousands in utility costs, Jay Lipp, principal of Fairchild’s Aerospace high school, told Taylor during his tour.

During the meeting, board member Maria Pereria said she hadn’t heard of any major problems with the building other than the turbine system on the roof after the school first opened.

Lipp told the board any building issues staff encounters are reported through the proper chain of command. He said Taylor’s trained eye caught things others didn’t.

“I think we can mitigate the damage. I don’t think we can fix them,” Taylor said during the tour. He characterized the cracks in the concrete in the stairwells as the most troubling. They should not be occurring in a five-year-old building, he added.

“If I was the one paying the bill, I would not be happy,” Taylor said.

The Fusco Corporation was the Construction Manager on what was the city’s largest school building project. On Tuesday, they could not be reached for comment.

At the meeting Monday evening, Taylor called the board to fire both Larry Schilling, a construction program manager for the city, and Alan Wallack, the school district’s construction liaison. Neither Taylor or the board have a say in the employment of either.

Later in an email to Taylor, Board Chairman John Weldon warned him that over the past few months, he had made various disparaging remarks on the public record concerning many of the staff members.

“I strongly urge you to cease this activity in order to avert any liability toward yourself and the board that it will certainly create if it persists,” Weldon wrote.

The school board agreed to visit the school Friday morning. They plan on inviting members of the city school building committee to join them. That group is set to meet Thursday.