Schools leak leaks | AspenTimes.com

Schools leak leaks

John Colson

Dave Lagrua moves buckets and cans around Wednesday to catch water leaking through the ceiling of the set design room next to the District Theatre at Aspen Middle School. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

When steady autumn rain made the Aspen Middle and Elementary school roofs act like colanders Wednesday, workers pulled out buckets and mops, and officials tipped off reporters.Numerous spots in both buildings sprouted trash cans and puddles, teachers were photographed in a classroom with their umbrellas deployed, and the head of maintenance for the Maroon Creek Road campus said he has been battling budget cuts for the past couple of years in his efforts to keep the schools dry.Meanwhile, Superintendent Diana Sirko said calls to alert local media were “in direct response to people questioning the urgency” of the $33 million bond, which would pay for a new middle school and is now before voters with some opposition.”It looks pretty urgent to me,” she said Wednesday.

While most of the bond ($22.5 million) would pay to build a new middle school, some $700,000 would be used to fix failing parts of the elementary school roof, as well.Schools maintenance supervisor Dave Lagrua said the special education classroom in the basement of the middle school is home to one of the worst leaks to appear this week. On Wednesday morning, water stained large portions of the carpet, and trash cans dotted the room to catch more drips from breaches in the roof.Lagrua said vibrations from a huge, 35-year-old heating, ventilation and air-conditioning unit have destabilized the roof. He said replacing it would cost $35,000 and replacing the roof would be an additional $250,000.He also said a sewer pipe embedded in a wall between the second and third floors rotted out and disintegrated recently, soaking through a brick wall before the source of the dampness could be found.There was another flood in the scene-making shop next to the District Theatre at the elementary school, where a 55-gallon trash can set under a rapid drip Tuesday night was three-quarters full by Wednesday morning. Lagrua said the room is directly beneath the concrete patio at the school’s main entrance, which he said needs to be ripped out and replaced, “a couple-hundred-thousand-dollar fix.”

Set builder Tom Ward said a downpour last summer flooded the scene shop and ruined a set being built for one of the operas in the Aspen Opera Theater Center, part of the Aspen Music Festival.In the lobby outside the District Theatre doors, a large wet spot was spreading on the carpet, mute testimony to a leak from the skylight in the roof.Sirko confirmed that the maintenance budget, which might have been used to repair the leaks, had been reduced over the past couple of years from a peak of $200,000 to $177,000 today.But, she said, “The issue now isn’t so much whether or not we can fix this.” She said the district has been patching leaks for years, and “after a while you’re spending good money after bad.”Plus, she said, with the bond vote pending, the district is not in a position to begin making major repairs.

Sirko said the leaks have been going on for years but are not predictable in their location or their severity.”We’ve been suffering in silence,” she said. “We keep patching different parts, but sooner or later you can only do so much patching. And some of it is, these are areas that weren’t leaking before.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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