New Westport school: Builder provides bird's-eye view of progress

Posted 1/24/20

WESTPORT — It’s difficult to gauge progress on the vast grade 5-12 school project from street level, so recently the contractor sent up a drone to provide an aerial view.

With that …

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New Westport school: Builder provides bird's-eye view of progress


WESTPORT — It’s difficult to gauge progress on the vast grade 5-12 school project from street level, so recently the contractor sent up a drone to provide an aerial view.

With that video (taken a couple says before) as a backdrop, Robert Gilchrist, construction manager at risk, described progress to date at the January 8 School Building Committee meeting.

Steelwork, along with first and second floor decking on the two middle school wings, is mostly up and and attention will next turn to the two high school wings.

Structural steel for the high school side is due to arrive Monday, Jan. 13, Mr. Gilchrist said and, since concrete footing there are complete, will start to go up immediately.

Concrete footings are also nearing completion for the central auditorium and the rear gymnasium and locker room areas. 

Also expected to happen soon (and slightly delayed — we are waiting for the blocks to arrive) is installation of the masonry firewalls that separate sections of the structure.

Members of the construction team offered other updates …

• Well water: Richard Marks, owners’ project manager, said the team met once with the state Department of Environmental Protection and would be meeting again shortly to discuss issues with the Elementary School well (next to the construction site). DEP had stepped in to prevent soil disturbance near that well out of concern for contamination.

Mr. Marks said that the new school will rely on both a new well that is being dug and on the elementary school well for its water and it now appears promising that that can happen as planned.

To make that work and minimize soil movement near the Elementary School well, a two level layout for new school athletic fields is planned.

One field will be elevated to levels first proposed, the other (closer to the well) will be six feet lower.

“It’s not ideal,” Mr. Marks said, since the hope was to have both fields at the same level, but “we think … it will provide all of the playing area that we previously had while improving the drainage … It is a far better outcome than other options and should save a lot of money.” It would also eliminate the costly need for a temporary line to the adjacent Westport Campgrounds water supply.

Mr. Marks showed photos of a similar two-tier field layout on the campus of Colby College in Maine.

Even though it now appears that a well on the campground property won’t be needed to supply the new school, “DEP strongly encouraged us to pursue a new well in the rear of the campgrounds property” to serve as backup.

• Drainage woes: Mr. Marks said that DEP also discussed the project’s drainage issues — a problem that has brought frequent protests from several neighbors to the east. During three large early winter storms, water and silt streamed downhill toward Gifford Road and the Head of Westport.

Mr. Marks said that DEP “found no reason to step in (and said) that the site was being managed appropriately.” He said DEP representatives found that the “site looks exceptional” and they “were very happy with the attention that has been given to this.”

“We are not going to sit on our laurels — we will continue to monitor it.”

Mr. Marks added that the contractor has brought in a new street sweeper to collect any silt that winds up on roadways.

• Brick color: Architect Jonathan Levi brought samples of brick and metalwork for use on the front of the building. His preference, and that of the design subcommittee, he said, was for a medium red brick with a contrasting mica metallic color (a light gray) for adjoining metalwork for the “exterior palate”). The Building Committee agreed unanimously.

Rear portions will get a buff color concrete masonry.

Mr. Levi said he hopes that granite curbing can be restored to parking areas — it was eliminated earlier in the process to deal with a feared $10 million budget shortfall but the project is now believed to be around $1.4 million under budget. He said the town may have some granite curbing available.

Drywall on order: US Drywall, which Mr. Marks said is a local firm, has been chosen to provide the school’s drywall. It has been ordered and should arrive in four or five weeks.

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