School Superintendent Dr. Greg Maass promised about 30 neighbors of the Glover School Thursday night that he would personally advocate for them in presenting their claims of damage to their homes that they say was caused by the blasting at the site of the new school building.
He said there is no “blueprint” for the school district to aid those homeowners whose homes have been damaged, but he is working to bring more pressure on the construction company to resolve the issues.
More than 20 neighbors along Alden, Columbia, Homestead Roads and Tedesco Street have filed claims against the blasting company, Maine Drilling and Blasting.
Most of the houses where the owners say they now have cracks and other problems are on the same ledge formation as that of the school, but many of them are outside a 250 foot radius from the blast site, which is supposed to be the potential damage zone.
To build the foundation for the new $25 million school, the construction company had to blast away a substantial amount of rock.
The blasting company, after a post-blast inspection of the homes, sent the homeowners a form letter denying their claims and suggesting that they file a claim with their personal homeowners' insurance company.
“I don't think it is right that I should have to file with my insurance company. I am not happy with it,” said Tom Mealey, a neighbor. He believes the blasting has caused problems with his water pipes and has caused his water heater to burn out. He brought a sample of the sandy water to the meeting.
Maass, who has been consulting with the town's attorney on the blasting issue, gave each of the neighbors a claim form that he asked them to fill out and bring to him personally by next Thursday.
He promised to take each of the forms to the school construction contractor, G&R Construction Co. of Quincy, and to the insurance company for Maine Drilling and Blasting, which he said would be difficult. And he plans to present the claims to the school district's insurance company.
Richard Nohelty, a school committee member who heads the Glover School Building Committee, joined Maass in meeting with the neighbors. He said the school district is not in a position to pay for the damages to the homes.
And under Massachusetts law, the school district is limited in what it can do to help the neighbors.
“We don't have the ability to step outside the process,” Maass said.
The process, under state law, is to file a claim with the company and with the Marblehead Fire Department, which issued the permits for the blasting and assigned a fireman to oversee the actual blasting.
The last blast was on Jan. 8, although project manager Chuck Adam said there is always a possibility that more blasting may be required.
The tone of the meeting was very tense with neighbors being angry and looking to Maass and Nohelty for answers to their frustrations with the construction companies, the town and the school district.
Barton Hyte, a neighbor, said the blasting company had insulted everyone by sending in their own people, not independent inspectors, to assess the damage.
“This is a lot of people who have been damaged,” he said, estimating that the damages would exceed $150,000.
“A lot of our neighbors don't know what to do,” said Kaarina Kvaavik, who is helping organize the neighbors. She said many of the neighbors have no information from the school district.
Maass said, “We care about the neighbors of Glover.” At a later meeting of the Glover School Building Committee, he said, “It is not us versus them. If I were them, I would be concerned myself.”
Several neighbors recalled that before the blasting the company had presented a video to the neighbors that touted how safe it blasting is. Maine Blasting talked in the video about how surgeons at Mass General were able to continue doing surgery even while it was blasting near the hospital.
“We all felt very good after seeing that video,” said one neighbor.
None of the neighbors said they felt good about the blasting now.
Maass and Nohelty promised to hold another meeting with the neighbors in two or three weeks to report on the progress. The meeting Thursday night was a regularly scheduled meeting with the neighbors that occurs every two months, but before last night those meetings have been poorly attended.
The issue has been escalating in recent weeks. The School Committee considered the issue at its December meeting and discussed it with the construction and blasting companies.
“That was a pretty testy meeting,” Nohelty said.