Mayor Brian Arrigo has offered a vigorous response to the City Council’s harsh comments about the lack of air conditioning at the Abraham Lincoln Elementary School.
The issue came before the City Council Monday night following a motion by Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo that “Mayor Arrigo request that Supt. of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly appear before the City Council to explain which schools do not have air conditioning and why.”
The lack of air conditioning at the Lincoln School has become bothersome due to the number of hot, mid-summer like days that have occurred since the school opened in late August.
Rotondo started the torrent of criticism, saying that he has received phone calls and emails complaining about the Lincoln School and Revere High School.
“I know this is an ongoing issue,” said Rotondo. “I know that the superintendent is trying her best, but these are complaints that are continuing, and it’s been three weeks now that I’ve been getting these complains. And the Lincoln School seems to be the one that people are most angry about.”
Councillor-at-Large Jessica Giannino called it “a huge issue” that hasn’t been remedied in several years. “I stood in the cafeteria of the Lincoln School with [former Councillor-at-Large] Bob Haas – that’s how long this has been an issue in the City of Revere,” said Giannino, who also cited a lack of communication between city departments. “The parents are frustrated. They were told they would have it.”
Councillor-at-Large Steven Morabito said he spoke with Dr. Kelly and “she did say the only school without air conditioning is Lincoln – and at Revere High School, about 50 percent of the building is air conditioned.”
“I was outraged as my colleagues were,” added Morabito.
Ward 3 Councillor Arthur Guinasso said, For the last four-and-half years, “I’ve been working on this, and all I’ve been getting is lip service. I recall very clearly sitting in the Lincoln School with Bob Haas and other members of government, and we got the asssurance from the mayor that this would be attended to. This is four-and-half years later.”
Other councillors were also critical in their remarks about the situation at the Lincoln School. A school parent, Michael Zaccaria, appeared later in the meeting to express his discontent with the matter. Zaccaria did single out Councillor-at-Large Giannino for her immediate response to his request for action.
Mayor Arrigo issued a detailed statement about the issue Tuesday.
“We started procurement for the Lincoln AC project for over 4 years ago when, as required by law, we engaged in a full year of schematic design to ensure a properly engineered system and to ensure due diligence was applied to the use of millions of tax-payer dollars,” said Arrigo. “It has not been a simple project as it required a full upgrade of the building’s electrical system as well as installation of a chilled-water piping loop throughout the entire building. Keeping in mind that this work cannot be safely done with students in the building, we have limited opportunities to actually engage in construction. Some might recall that we initially planned the electrical upgrade for the summer of 2018 but were delayed a full year when National Grid had a labor dispute. Add to that 18 months of Covid and the impact that has had on the global supply chain, and we find ourselves waiting on one piece of equipment that has been repeatedly delayed. We now do not expect to have that until the end of September and will need roughly 3 weeks for full installation, testing, and inspections to be completed.
“Mr. Svendsen gave a detailed update of this project on August 17 at the School Committee meeting. Principal Hoomis updated parents in a message sent on August 31. She gave another update just yesterday, September 13, at Meet the Teacher night. I know Dr. Kelly communicated with those councillors who reached out to her. Anyone who claims the school department has not adequately communicated what is happening with this project is not paying attention or not seeking accurate information. Anyone who thinks these kind of construction projects can happen overnight is woefully ignorant of the construction process, is ignoring all of the news about the impact COVID has had on the global supply chain, or does not understand municipal procurement.
“It is disappointing that the City Council chose to use their platform to slam the concerted efforts of the school department and the City to improve conditions at the Lincoln School. The Lincoln School has been open – without air conditioning – for over 50 years. Every one of those years saw extremely hot school days. Despite the fact that most of the councillors who spoke about this as being a major issue held their elected office for far longer than we’ve been working on this project – some for decades –suddenly, now, they are “outraged” that a construction project is taking longer than expected as we continue to battle COVID. Their vitriol is disingenuous,” said Mayor Arrigo.