Plugging leaks

News that it will cost in the neighborhood of $224,000 to repair leaky windows and siding on a classroom wing at Mount Desert Island High School is, as the late, great Yogi Berra once said, “Déjà vu all over again.”

In this case, the problem is low quality windows and improperly installed materials when the work was done in 2000. Unfortunately, the original warranty on the project has expired. Taxpayers are left on the hook for the expense involved in repairing the damage.

About five years ago, school officials and members of the board of trustees were wrestling with persistent leaks in replacement windows that were incorrectly installed around the gymnasium.

The fact that the classroom defects involve work done well before the gym problems were discovered in 2010, shields officials from blame for the pattern of faults now emerging. But a pattern there is. It’s not in how officials have responded to the leaks, but the apparent lack of adequate supervision of the architects and contractors that did the work.

In the gym case, flashing was installed incorrectly above new windows. Someone with appropriate construction experience would have spotted that during the installation.

In the classroom wing, the original installer apparently used copious amounts of caulking to cover improper installation. As any homeowner in Maine knows, fixing something with a tube of the “goop-de-jour” from the hardware store is no substitute for doing the job right in the first place.

In hindsight, the previous projects could have benefited from a pro looking over some shoulders. As this next round of repairs begins, the trustees should hire a highly experienced clerk of the works or independent inspector to oversee all their vendors involved in the project.

The most immediate problem is the inconvenience and potential damage from water pouring into classrooms and other spaces during bad weather. But the ongoing major leak that needs to be stopped, however, is not in the building itself. It is the steady drip of money from taxpayer wallets every time another example of shoddy workmanship forces expensive repairs that might have been avoided.


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