A failed asbestos removal plan has left renovations at Eastport Elementary in jeopardy, with school officials facing a $450,000 bill and litigation that may be tied up in court for years.
School officials say a Baltimore asbestos removal company working over the past yearfailed to clear the building despite being paid $95,000. Another company hired at $60,000 to test the school gave an all-clear, but recent tests show the area still contains the cancer-causing material.
Construction workers at the site were ordered to stop work two weeks ago after a routine air-quality check near the boiler room. Asbestos levels were found to be higher throughout the rest of the school,however, than near the boiler.
Results from a retest by the Atlanta-based Law Engineering firm found the school uninhabitable. Moran received the results late last week.
Since the building supposedly was asbestos-free, renovation workers from W. D. Curran & Associates Construction Co. in Annapolis had not been wearing protective clothing while working there. A health fund will be established for the workers, said Mark Moran, the school system's supervisor of design and engineering. He said he plans to recoup money from the two companies.
The Baltimore firm of Brico Environmental was paid $95,000 to remove the asbestos. The industrial hygiene firm I-TEM, based in Frederick, was paid $60,000 to observe the asbestos abatement and monitor air samples.
Although representatives from both companies have toured the building since asbestos was discovered a second time, both deny responsibility, Moran said.
The issue will be brought up at the next school board meeting, scheduled for Nov. 6. Moran said the board would be asked to seek a transfer of $450,000 from the County Council to pay for cleaning and retesting of the building, litigation and establishing a contingency fund for the workers.
The request comes as school officials struggle to cut more than $10 million from their $341 million budget, at the request of County Executive Robert R. Neall.
"We fully anticipate getting the money back, but if we waited forthem we would be waiting for years," Moran said. "I fully realize this is an inopportune time to ask for money. It couldn't be worse. Butgiven all that, we have no alternative. We've got to lay the problemon the table. Without the money, the (renovation) project is dead inthe water."
Renovations to the 87-year-old school building were to be completed by summer 1992 to allow Eastport students to move fromtheir temporary home in a wing of Annapolis Middle. The delay also has jeopardized renovations to Parole Elementary, scheduled to begin next summer. Those students would have been moved into the wing at Annapolis.
"We're trying to figure out what happened," Moran said. "Meanwhile, we're taking bids on re-abating the building. We'll see howthat comes out."
The entire Eastport building is being renovated,and a new 4,000-square-foot media center is being added.
Despite the mounting expenses, Moran said, the building is worth saving.
"The asbestos is there," he said. "We are working with our lawyers to see how best to proceed to protect the school board and taxpayers' interest."