MIDDLEBURY — Voters in the Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) school district will likely be asked to approve a bond issue next year to help pay for re-roofing the Middlebury Union Middle School building.
The UD-3 school board has agreed to solicit bids for the work, which an architect has already estimated will cost between $634,457 and $960,608. The former figure reflects the cost of installing a new asphalt shingle roof; the latter would provide for a new metal roof.
The board is also soliciting bids for some additional options to complement and strengthen the project, including installation of low-maintenance fascia trim, insulating attic ducts, fire taping mechanical rooms in the attic for fire protection and air sealing, and putting in additional vented nail-base insulation on the gym/cafeteria roof.
“It just never got done right the first time,” UD-3 board Chairman Leonard Barrett said of the current MUMS roof, a 55,000-square-foot surface that is covered with asphalt shingles that have yielded to the elements more quickly than officials anticipated.
“It is not an ideal situation,” he added, of the need to repair the roof after only 14 years.
The roof is original to the school, erected in 1996-1997 as part of a $10,480,000 project. The price tag included $4,048,000 for renovations to Middlebury Union High School and $6,158,650 for creation of the stand-alone middle school off Middle Road.
It represented a less costly plan than a $13 million version that taxpayers defeated soundly in 1992. District officials said the roof was apparently one of the items identified for savings back in the mid-1990s.
“The metal roof idea was cut during construction in favor of an asphalt roof, to try and stay within budget,” said UD-3 Buildings and Grounds Director Bruce MacIntire. “They wanted to cover the roof as cheaply as they could.”
Trouble is, the MUMS roof was originally designed, and angled, to accommodate a metal roof.
“It’s not as steep as you’d like for an asphalt roof,” MacIntire explained.
That roof pitch, along with the quality of shingles used, has led to steady deterioration of the roof to the extent that it has had to be patched annually for the past five years, MacIntire noted. The roof’s shortcomings are particularly evident in the winter, when the surface harbors large chunks of ice that have to be chipped away — especially near the building’s exits.
“We’ve experienced severe icing in the northeast valley of the roof, and it is causing a dangerous situation at the rear exit of the building,” MacIntire said.
Inga Duktig, MUMS principal, said the roof routinely springs leaks — particularly during the spring thaw. Those leaks primarily occur in the school gym and cafeteria, as well as in the hallway connecting those two areas. It is not uncommon to see children, staff and teachers dodging around several barrels set out to capture water that leaks into the building on particularly wet days.
“We have to constantly replace ceiling tiles in those areas, and there is (water) damage to the interior sheetrock in the cafeteria hallway,” Duktig said.
While an architect has told school officials they might get another year or two out of the roof, MUMS personnel would like to see something done sooner rather than later.
“What we’re trying to do is protect an investment that voters made 15 years ago,” Duktig said.
MacIntire said the district has looked into the possibility of recouping money through the warranty and from the original roofer. But he noted the roof is already at the edge of its warranty and the roofer is no longer in business.
That means the UD-3 board will have to look at other financing options for the re-roofing project, including dipping into the district’s education reserve fund (which currently contains $382,182.77) and asking for a bond issue from the taxpayers.
Asked if he believed the project would require bonding, Barrett said, “Absolutely. And I am not in favor of using all the reserve fund money for this roof.”
Barrett explained that it will be important to keep at least some of the reserve fund money available in case of unanticipated financial emergencies.
“A bond is a definite possibility,” agreed UD-3 board member Linda Schumer, a member of the district’s facilities committee.
“We need to figure out which roofing system to go with.”
A tentative timetable calls for the UD-3 board to narrow down a financing plan in December. The board would review contractor bids in January, then potentially approve a warning for a bond vote on Town Meeting Day. Such a decision would add a second bond vote to Middlebury’s Town Meeting Day business. The community is already scheduled to vote on a $4.875 million bond to renovate and expand its Seymour Street fire station and replace its East Middlebury firehouse.
Reporter John Flowers is at email@example.com.