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City weighs bids to demolish Newton North High

Posted by Leslie Anderson  May 12, 2010 11:08 AM

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The old Newton North High School won’t go away overnight. Though its $197.5 million replacement is slated to open this fall, city officials say the 37-year-old structure won’t be completely torn down until early next spring.

Amid celebrations, cleanings, and tearful goodbyes, someone will be selected to supervise the demolition of the outdated school building. Bids for the process are currently being reviewed by Dimeo and Turner, the construction firms responsible for the new building, and the city expects to select a final candidate sometime later this month.

‘‘The project will not go to the lowest bidder, but those whose project plans have the highest quality and who show their ability to proceed in a satisfactory manner,’’ said Newton’s chief operating officer, Bob Rooney. ‘‘The city is hoping to get candidates and make its selection sometime within the next two weeks.’’

Rooney said it might be a long time before residents are aware demolition has begun.

‘‘It definitely won’t look like a lot is being done at first,’’ Rooney said. ‘‘They’ll start out with abatement on the inside of the building, leaving the outer structure intact.’’

Rooney said specifics on the demolition were not being released, as each bid stipulates a slightly different process. But one thing he said the city would consider carefully was each contractor’s plan for removing the building’s asbestos, which was used as insulation.

‘‘There is asbestos in the building, as well as PCBs in the lining of at least one skylight. This is true in a lot of older buildings,’’ Rooney said. PCBs are chemicals which were once common in fluorescent light fixtures and construction caulk, and which have known carcinogenic properties.

‘‘We have done testing over the last year to get a meaningful sample of how extensive the materials are, which is necessary for contractor bids.’’

After the contaminants and interior fixtures are removed, Rooney said, outside demolition will begin sometime in the winter.

‘‘We don’t want to do it when people have windows open. We want to wait until there’s snow on the ground to muffle the sound and when people won’t be as bothered by dust,’’ Rooney said. ‘‘This way, we’ll be done in March and can start planting the athletic fields that will be on the old building site by April.’’

Rooney said the city will announce when a demolition subcontractor has been picked — and for those following the most expensive public school project in the state’s history, that will be an important day for many reasons.

‘‘This is the last major cost driver on the whole project,’’ Rooney said. ‘‘Once we know how much the demolition is going to cost, we’ll have the last piece of the puzzle for knowing how much Newton North will cost.’’

Sarah Thomas can be reached at sarah.m.thomas@gmail.com.

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