By: Tom Duggan – January, 2014
Haverhill Police Officers say they are not only putting their safety at risk while out doing their jobs protecting the public, but also while working inside the mold and mildew infested police station that was built only 15 years ago.
The Haverhill Police Station located on Bailey Blvd, was constructed in the late 90’s for $6.6M, but documents obtained by the Valley Patriot show that the contractor for the project, Palladium Construction, delivered a substandard building that was already plagued with problems due to leaking windows and a leaky roof before police even occupied the building.
“Our officers and even the civilians who have to work in this building are being exposed to health hazards because of the mold, and the mold is due to the leaking roof, and the leaking windows,” says Police Chief Alan DeNaro.
“The Haverhill Police moved into this building on October 27, 2009. When I took over on October 28, 2002, this building was already 3 years old and it was leaking back then. The roof was leaking, the windows were leaking in multiple locations and we had mold and mildew back then. Now it’s even worse after 13 years.”
The chief says there was an $80K bond on the project.
“We went through that fast between the air conditioning that wasn’t done right, the leaking, the boiler had to be replaced and by the way, it has to be replaced again. I also had to replace the electronic key system for building security, the contractor bought an outdated electronic key system so we couldn’t get parts, we couldn’t expand our security in the building. This building is a nightmare and has been since day one,” DeNaro added.
“I get the whole thing about not wanting to gouge the taxpayers, but by going with the lowest bidder you end up gouging the taxpayers even more with repairs.”
According to a WHAV.net report, the City of Haverhill spent $367,825.00 on a new roof that had cost overruns to the tune of $79,300.00 for a total of $447,125.00. Yet the mold, leaking windows, boiler problems and other issues with the building continue to persist, and Haverhill officials have done little to secure the health and well being of the police officers and civilians who work in that building every day.
THE $6.6M RIPOFF
The Valley Patriot obtained documents showing the cost of the construction project as well as letters and memos detailing the fraudulent work done by Palladium Construction. The company has since dissolved by an order of the courts.
According to documents the Architect of the building (Donham and Sweeney), there (was a punch list) 18 pages (long) of unresolved issues in the building that needed to be addressed as of June 28, 1999 so that the building could be occupied.
On October 13, 1998, a letter to Palladium Construction from the architect shows that the City of Haverhill was concerned with mold problems developing in the building from the leaking roof and windows “which have water damage to the walls, or water on the floors indicating wet insulation.” According to the letter, 24 rooms in the brand new building had leakage and damage.
“Our concern is for mold, mildew, and reduced insulating properties of the insulation. The contractor is responsible for temporary protection of the building. All wet drywall in these areas and all drywall above wet floors shall be removed as well as the batt insulation in the cavities.” The letter was cc’d to Mayor Rurak and all those involved in the project at the time.
In letter dated October 16, 1998, Palladium Construction blamed their own subcontractor, Reliable Roofing, for the “shoddy work.” Palladium’s letter to Donham and Sweeney stated in part, “We believe the roof leaks we experienced were primarily due to the uncraftsman-like installation by our original roof subcontractor Reliable Roofing.”
According to the letter, all issues with roofing and shoddy work were supposed to be “100% complete by Monday October 19, 1998.”
To date that work has never been completed.
FIRE DEPARTMENT CALLS WORK UNACCEPTABLE
In a letter dated in April of 1999, Captain Guertin of the Haverhill Fire Department outlined what he called “unacceptable” work on the building. “I found that the rain/gutter/downspout/flashing installation unacceptable,” he said in writing.
He recommended that the entire installation be ripped out and replaced, some of which was done but resulted in more cost overruns and was still not completed according to the specifications of the bid.
“I sense a seeming lack of aggressiveness in addressing most problems in a timely manner,” Captain Guertin’s letter states. “Obviously, the failure to address some of the more serious of these problems will continue to delay occupancy.”
Despite the fact that these issues were never satisfactorily resolved and delayed the occupancy of the building by the Haverhill Police, they were eventually allowed to occupy the building anyway.
An engineering report from Briggs Engineering and Testing shows they performed a gutter system inspection on May 21, 1999. In a letter dated June 14, 1999, Briggs outlined their findings, which stated “the condition of the gutter system appeared to be in poor condition observed at the time of inspection. They also stated “The existing gutter system was installed as part of the new roof system on the Police Station construction project” and “ at this time, the gutter appears to be unable to function properly as numerous seams are wide open.” “Interior leaks may occur as a result….”
AND WHAT ABOUT THE CLERK OF THE WORKS? CLERK OF THE WORKS REPORT on Oct 19,1999
The Clerk of the Works, John Arena, reported substantial water damage to materials. The clerk directed Palladium Construction to demolition all affected areas and have everything replaced. “The water entering the building is believed to be caused by poor work at several areas of the roof, the shingles the flashing and the gutters.
DENIALS AND FRAUD
In a harshly worded letter by Palladium Contractors to the Architect dated July 26, 1999, Palladium categorically denied any problems with the roof, leaking, and other building problems as the result of substandard work. Palladium tried to claim in this letter that that the “alleged problems” with the building were merely “gossip and unsubstantiated.”
“The roofs integrity is a non issue and there are no leaks at the project on the dates in question.”
The Valley Patriot checked the weather for the days of the alleged inspections by Palladium and found that it was not raining on the dates the building was inspected so no leakage would be present on those days anyway.
The July 26 letter directly contradicted their letter in 1998 admitting that the work by their subcontractor was the cause for the problems.
VALLEY PATRIOT TOURS THE BUILDING IN 2014
In November of 2014, The Valley Patriot toured the police station and filmed the extensive damage and unhealthy conditions that police officers and civilians have to work in every single day. The Valley Patriot found leaking, mold, discolored ceilings, plugs covered with plastic, wet rugs, and walls and windows with water damage in every room we entered. In the evidence room, as well as a dozen other rooms, holes in the walls showed thick black mold in the insulation behind each wall.
When asked why it had not been done in 15 years, Chief DeNaro said that “the mayor is the one to address all questions regarding the funding and timing of any repair work.”
Mayor Fiorentini said that the city has “referred this matter to outside counsel to see if there was anyone to sue.”
“We are in the process of fixing this. The roof has been replaced. There is more work to do. We do not need to, nor would I support, an override a debt exclusion for this we will do this within the budget.”
“Right now, we are using money that was donated to the police department. We will fix this and within our budget that is our plan. We will explore every legal avenue to see if there is any contractor, subcontractor our insurance company where we can recover money.
According to documents obtained by the City of Haverhill, Palladium Construction initially put in the wrong windows. When they installed the windows, the new ones were too small resulting in window leakage in every office of every floor.
“I’m a police chief, I’d rather spend my time trying to keep the streets safe but, I spend an awful lot of time on this building every day. The city has known from day one about the windows, the mold and the water problems, and I’m still dealing with it every day.
Haverhill Officer Scott Ziminski accompanied The Valley Patriot on the police station tour. As we filmed each area of the building, Ziminski detailed the daily inconveniences and hazards of working at the station.
“We had Serve-Pro, an outside contractor, and a company that does testing OHI all come in to take a look at condition of the building to see what work still needs to be done,” Ziminski said.
“We tried to put it through insurance. What they are saying is that in each office that has damage you have to cut out all the sheetrock, do a test, see how much damage there is, treat the mold and replace all the carpets. When it leaks, you can see a lot of stains in the carpet, it puddles. So, it could cost anywhere from $500K-$600K because we have to move everyone out of the offices and where we are talking mold, there is a specific state standard as to how to handle it. It has to be fixed as if the mold never occurred. So the problem is, you have to take out a certain amount of the walls, check to make sure there is no mold, rip the rugs out, all the coving, put in new sheet rock, and move the evidence from the evidence room.” Before this can be done however, pressure testing must be done on all the windows to identify those that are leaking so they can be fixed. The testing may cost upwards of $20,000.00 and has not yet been authorized by the mayor. The cost for fixing leaking windows has yet to be determined.
Office Ziminski also showed The Valley Patriot the boiler room and said that they already replaced the original boiler and the newer boiler was already in need of replacement.
“The boilers were put in in 1999,” the officer said pointing to an old rusted boiler that looked like it had been there for decades.
“Back in 2006 one of the boilers failed, there’s a section within the steam boiler that was no longer working. The city at the time had the option to get help from a company called Burnham Boilers at the cost of replacing the whole boiler system. Rather than replace to repair for cheaper money, they chose to repair one section of the boiler, and it failed again. So you can see on this boiler there are two sections that failed on that.”
“It costs about $120K to replace all of these and it takes about two weeks. We have two boilers but they are both down. They leak water and glycol which is like anti-freeze.”
NEW EQUIPMENT IN A WATER AND MOLD FILLED BUILDING
The City of Haverhill received a federal grant of $400,000.00 for brand new dispatching and communication equipment in 2010.
“It’s leaking on dispatch,” Ziminski said in frustration. “On top of all the computer systems we have, there’s water. There’s water leaking through the windows, onto the floors and near the extension cords and electrical outlets.” The Valley Patriot observed and photographed several electrical cords covered in plastic near the walls powering some of the communications equipment. One officer whose desk and computer were against one of the exterior walls of the building, had wet ceiling tiles with large brown water stains from months of leaking. A large puddle stain encircled the rug beneath her desk where computer cords and electrical equipment plugs were located. On the windowsill, just a foot or so from the officer’s computer was black mold, peeling and bubbling paint and water stains down the wall.
HEALTH HAZZARDS FROM MOLD
According to the EPA: Research studies have shown that exposures to building dampness and mold have been associated with respiratory symptoms, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, rhino sinusitis, bronchitis, and respiratory infections. Individuals with asthma or hypersensitivity pneumonitis may be at risk for progression to more severe disease if the relationship between illness and exposure to the damp building is not recognized and exposures continue.
Local environmental activist Tennis Lilly said that the city should be testing the air quality in the building and that not all mold is dangerous.
“Mold, especially black mold in a building is extraordinarily hard to get rid of. It gets into the walls and it’s really toxic when you inhale it. It’s also an asthma trigger. It causes chronic lung inflammation, bronchial inflammation, it’s really dangerous to have mold constantly in a building, especially since most modern buildings are sealed. You don’t open your windows a lot in a modern building. For energy efficiency you want the building closed up so you can balance the heat going in and out, you want to have a constant flow of air with the HVAC and you want to have that air filtered. But if that’s not working right, if you have mold in the walls or the ceiling, what you can get is a constant flow of air that’s filled with toxins and mold and that can have a long term impact on people’s health”
“I wonder who signed off on this project knowing all these issues existed,” Lilly asked.
NEXT MONTH PART II