Saluting the RB Board for addressing the pool area’s faulty design — 1/23/2013

Here is what i said to the RB Board Tuesday night, January 22, at its Committee of the Whole meeting:

As the parent of three swimmers, I am here to thank all members of this board for taking up kids’ health and safety in the pool area.

RB health and safety issues have ranged from the soccer goal-tipping hazard, that Dr. Bonnette solved in three days after it was denied for years; to stainless steel in new pool area showing rust – with no interest from the previous board.

Some 16 months ago, this board and our then-new superintendent took action.  The facility manager said – on video — that the pool “fan was broken.”

Obviously, this board saw the problem as more serious than a fan, which was fixed immediately.  Within months that facility manager was gone.  His successor began a serious effort to index problems.

That new effort led to a joint program with swimming parents to engage professionals to examine pool area conditions closely and report back fairly and fully.

The report that issued late last year detailed the pool area’s design errors and its faulty HVAC system, which was found unable to clean sufficiently the air closest to the pool, which is the layer from which all our swimmers breathe.

It is for this board’s unflinching acceptance of the report — and your willingness to cure the problem — that I thank you this evening.

After spending $66,750,000, we deserve a fully functioning physical plant, not one that leaks, or whose boilers don’t work properly, or whose promised new roofs were not installed, or whose pool air is not adequately recycled.

Your determination to vindicate that right, regardless of unwarranted criticisms, distinguishes the seven of you for all taxpayers.  All parents, and all of us who have watched the building program closely, look forward with anticipation to your further efforts to correct prior mistakes on behalf of those who funded the flawed and over-budget rebuilding effort.  Thank you.

[End 1/22/13  statement to the RBHS Board of Education.]

Comment:

Since the pool opened there have been very serious problems.  Some of these include the filtering of the air, including toxic by-products of chlorination not exhausted and replaced with fresh air.  Furthermore, the failure to control humidity leaves the facility at risk for mold, other microbiologic conditions and structural weakening.

We know kids have experienced respiratory discomfort.  Now we need to find and eliminate the cause.  It is my belief that this has harmed at least some of the swimmers who have used the pool.

Take a tour of the natatorium . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vXUFZaBcPo&list=PL2FF5537A92FBE3FF&index=2&hd=1

When general concerns were raised about the construction project, one board member dug in his heels in opposition to any systematic effort to report on what we had received for our $66.75 million.  Another board member, who was on the board for some of the project and generally supported project votes, also opposed any definitive report.

Now we know — after the boilers were found to have been installed improperly, and the promised new roofs were not installed, and the field house was found in a flood plain with no apparent authority to be there, and the sealing of the field house was done so poorly that it leaked for years, and some of the sewer connections were poorly made, and the stainless steel in the pool began rusting within several years of opening, and most significantly that the pool HVAC system is inadequate and has simply never properly filtered the air, causing Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues and related illness amongst our kids, that the district deserves a COMPREHENSIVE review of what was promised, what was done, and who bears the cost of any divergence between the two.

Luckily, the board took a step in that direction last night by hearing from DLA Architects, a reputable firm with no ties to Blagojevich-era corruption, to become the board’s new architect.

I say “luckily” because just months ago the board had before it a proposal to re-hire Wight and Company architects, of Chicago and Darien, to perform both a 10-year life/safety assessment and a review of RB’s capital programming needs.  Wight and Company was the architect of the $66.75 million program that now manifests so many problems, and it was publicly linked to a variety of pay-to-play irregularities in the Blagojevich scandals.  The board wisely voted that idea down.

Hiring Wight in essence to review Wight’s work would have denied district taxpayers the independence necessary to fairly judge what we received for our money.  No one wants to blame Wight for decisions that were not Wight’s to make.  But, if one is a swimming parent, or a district taxpayer, then there is every reason in the world to look to Bradley A. Paulsen, AIA, Wight and Company’s Vice President, Business Development and PK-12 Education Practice Leader, and say, “fix it — definitively — at your cost.”

The same instruction may apply to a lot of the other construction project failures the new board has confronted — which were ignored by its predecessors.

Of course, that is not how Wight sees things.  Superintendent Dr. Skinkis referred on Tuesday, January 22 to a letter from Wight, in response to his request for an explanation of the natatorium, that apparently seeks to avoid responsibility for its work.  That course will make life complicated for Mr. Paulsen and Wight.

The 2006 board chose not to hire a competent and qualified Owner’s Representative.  It chose not to hire a commissioning agent.  It gave control of the project to a union thug who was masquerading as a member of our administration — who had no professional background in construction / architecture / development / project management / or anything else related to a project of this size and scope.  It fired a credentialed waste hauler to pay more money for the same service to another company — with ties to organized crime that have been reported by Chuck Goudie on ABC7 News.  According to published reports and a history of the Chicago underworld, it is owned by members of a family whose leader was barred from the Teamsters by the federal government.  The board broke its promises to the taxpayers to provide an audit of the largest project in the history of the district, and it left building maintenance in a shambles.

We elected a new board, and it has painstakingly established a record.  Boilers, sewer stacks, HVAC and serious IAQ problems, no new roofs as promised, a leaky “field house” in a flood plain — which is smaller than promised and whose “track” cannot be used for the injuries it would cause our running kids, no operating manuals, no maintenance manuals, no acceptance of responsibility, a facility manager whose word was not good, etc.

Take a tour of the field house:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y70Izne6FDE&list=PL2FF5537A92FBE3FF&hd=1

In the face of this, one board member still opposes any report to the taxpayers.  But, he proposed DLA Architects, so perhaps he is learning.  Another member — the one who sat on the 2006 board — actually complained last night about the statutory bidding / procurement process that led to discussion of DLA Architects.  She wondered why they were not accepting Wight and Company’s self-serving offer.

The construction project was a travesty.  Every pledge made by those boards and that administration was betrayed.  I regret having supported it as a member of the Citizen’s Committee.

It is up to this board and administration to wade us out of the swamp.  They took a big step in doing so by rejecting Wight.  They will take another by hiring DLA.  By fixing the pool mess now, they will show their determination to put student life/safety above the discomfort of reviewing  their predecessors’ failure.  That is called leadership, so i am proud to have saluted at least the six members of the board who embraced the independence and competence of DLA instead of the betrayals and failures of Wight.

See this new Board of Education and superintendent’s approach to facility management issues:

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2FF5537A92FBE3FF

Explore posts in the same categories: Education, Riverside Brookfield High School -- Athletics, Riverside Brookfield High School -- Turnaround

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