By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
CITY OF TONAWANDA — Board members received yet another update on the capital project at Tuesday’s regular board meeting.
With the bulk of the project set to begin in the spring, contractors are finishing up work on the Mullen Elementary roof replacement and waiting for state code approval for the project, which is set to come in before Thanksgiving.
“We have a day or two of corrections left on the roof, and that’s pretty much it,” Peter Buckley, of contractor Pike Co., said. “After that we will get the formal punch list.”
At the board’s meeting Sep. 25, Buckley estimated the roof replacement would go $172,000 over budget, but said Tuesday that after going through the overages line by line, they have cut that figure down to $141,000.
However, contractors still need to do work on improving the gym’s acoustics and may use paint to do so instead of more expensive sound-proofing materials.
Buckley also presented the board with the final budgetary estimates and schedule for the main project — which came in about $129,000 over the original estimates of $11.9 million.
“Although it shows us about that figure, I think we are going to come substantially below that at bid time,” Buckley said.
He estimated the project would come in at about 10 percent under the budgeted value after bids go out in January.
“It’s a perfect time to bid and people are going to be hungry for work,” Buckley said.
The field and track are set to be complete in mid-August and the music wing, a more complicated structure, in September or October.
The board also held a public comment session with members of the Tonawanda City School District Civil Service Employees Independent Association, which is comprised of custodial employees, groundsmen, clerical workers, mechanics and engineers. The union filed a complaint in August, citing a lack of communication between the board and the association.
Richard D. Furlong, of the law firm Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, represented the union and, in the letter, argued that the district did not respond to a number of requests regarding employees’ medical coverage and firing decisions.
He repeated many of the same issues Tuesday.
“When an employer and a union sit down, they can work things out and problems get solved,” Furlong said. “But that’s not what has been happening.”
Furlong said staff reductions have led to employees taking on a much greater workload, and said communication with the board has been decreasing for three years.
“People are at their breaking point,” he said. “The job itself is so onerous, and there is no discussion with you about it.”
He mentioned the union’s willingness to make contractual concessions in previous negotiations allowing the board to balance the budget.
Furlong also said spouses of board members and members themselves have made negative comments concerning the employees’ skill sets.
Board members apologized for misunderstandings, but did make a point to take issue with much of what Furlong said.
“I appreciate you coming,” school board President Jackie Smilinich said. “But it’s not the board’s position to negotiate with the union, it’s the superintendent’s. And we didn’t even know about this until the letter that you sent in August.”
After a lengthy discussion, the board and the union scheduled a closed-door meeting to discuss contractual matters in an effort to improve communication.
“We want this to be a good relationship,” board member Lynn Casal said.