Gloucester Township Public Schools passes resolution to purchase nearly $4.8 million roof

The board’s decision received pushback from the community.

At its latest meeting, the Gloucester Township Public Schools Board of Education voted to approve the installation of a $4,769, 099 roof for Ann A. Mullen Middle School. The capital project, which will be part of the 2018–2019 school budget, will come from the district’s capital reserve account and not increase local taxes, according to the district.

The resolution was originally presented at the Feb. 26 board meeting, but was tabled after Gloucester Township residents voiced concerns about the costs of the procurement, which will be performed by Waterproof Technologies, Inc. (Tremco) in the summer.

The district says it has planned to purchase a new roof since around 2013, as the building, which is the largest in the district, has faced a series of issues, including nearly 86 leaks, according to Superintendent John Bilodeau.

Throughout the meeting, Gloucester Township residents and teachers, as well as roofing professionals, weighed in on the contentious decision.

One major concern is the costs of the removal and replacement of the roof’s solar panels, which were installed in 2013. According to the project overview, the removal and replacement of the panels will cost $275,800. In 2013, the solar panel company deemed the roof suitable for installation, according to Bilodeau.

“This $275,000 cost that the taxpayers and the school district are prepared to pay on the removal and reinstallation of these related to the roof project — we should find a way to make that liable to whoever made the decision … to install the solar panels on a roof that wasn’t fit for solar panels,” resident Pete Heinbaugh said.

Bilodeau says any of the remediation that happened was not in any area under A-frame roofing.

“I think you were trying to make a link between where the solar panels are and where the mold was and that would be false,” Bilodeau said. “Because, there are only six leaks currently as of February 2018 in the A-frame section where those panels are.”

Only about six, or about 6.9 percent of the leaks, are in the rooftop solar panel area. The other 80, or 93.1 percent, are found in other shingle roof sections and flat roof areas, according to the project overview. Approximately 10 percent of the roof contains solar panels, which are not the district’s property.

Community members also voiced concerns about the 40-year warranty on the shingles of the current roof, which was purchased in 1995 and manufactured by GAF Roofing Shingles and Materials.

“I don’t think (the board) is prepared to move on this resolution tonight unless GAF weighs in,” resident Ray Polidoro said.

According to solicitor Daniel Long, the only weather event covered in these damages is wind and that’s been expired. The only warranty still in effect on the base building is the manufacturing defect. In the G-wing, there is a manufacturing defect, as well as the misapplication of shingles.

However, the district would have to file a notice of claim with GAF Roofing Shingles and Materials, who manufactured the roof. This process could tack on even more expenses.

“For a notice of claim, you have to cite a specific claim that you’re making, in other words, a manufacturing error or something that’s still applicable and you have to say this is what the issue is,” Long said. “And there is an expense that goes with it, because pursuant to the warranty, it’s at our own expense that we would have to arrange for the testing of the shingles that we are alleging to be defective.”

Long said with the G-wing, there is no evidence that it is the labor and materials that caused the 11 of the 86 leaks in the building.

GAF gives a golden pledge warranty after it inspects and verifies the installation of the shingles was correct. But, Long says he doesn’t believe the installation caused leakages in G-wing, based on conversations with Pennoni engineering.

Residents also questioned why the district did not perform a traditional bid for the roofing project.

The board didn’t go this route, because the bid requires engineering and/or architectural firms to generate plan specifications to include in the advertised bid. This could lead to costly change orders and possible additional costs, according to the project overview.

“If you go out for a traditional bid, you would need to deploy an architect, which was not used,” Bilodeau said. “Architects in prior roof systems for this district charged eight percent. You apply eight percent against a $4 million roof, and that’s an additional fee that you would incur, which is not being incurred by the taxpayers on this particular roof proposal.”

Professional roofers also attended the meeting and said some line-item costs in Tremco’s quote, including $20,800 for sweeping debris, should be included in the fees.

“In all the years I’ve been in business, it’s part of doing the job. You don’t charge for sweeping,” said Harry Landis, Gloucester Township resident and 34-year roofing veteran.

Kevin McGahey, the district’s purchasing supervisor, says the only way for the district to create this bid is to come up with line-item costs.

“Just because somebody who’s bidding this factors that into their bid, doesn’t mean that this company, Tremco, shouldn’t be able to factor in their costs for that amount,” he said. “That’s just another factor included in line-item pricing that isn’t typical of what you see in a bid.”

On the flipside, teachers at Mullen also spoke up, saying they’ve witnessed water leak through ceiling tiles and drip down down walls behind chalkboards and whiteboards, comparing the conditions as a potential Williamstown-incident when Monroe Township schools closed in October due to dire mold discoveries.

“I appreciate all of the input from everyone, but I also would like to know if you could put a cost on our health when these buildings are leaking,” said Patti McBride, a teacher at Mullen and president of the Gloucester Township Education Association. “I implore you to replace the roof and get it right, so we don’t have to live with trash bags, trash cans, tarps over our heads to prevent it from destroying equipment in our classroom.”

Board Member Jennifer O’Donnell says the district should have approached this roofing project better, but ultimately the decision was about the health and safety of teachers and students.

In the future, she says she will be committed to seeing multiple bids for one job.

“I, again, want to thank the public that come out and point out that we don’t know what we don’t know,” she said. “I also want to thank the teachers who come and point out what we do know, and that it’s been a problem for a long time.”