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Roof Snow Removal Bill at $50,000 and Growing

Removal of snow will continue on Tuesday, when schools will remain closed in Hamilton-Wenham.

The private contractors hired to remove snow from the roofs of the were moved from the middle and high school on Monday morning to the in hopes of having the roofs of all three elementary schools clear by Tuesday.

The continued work to remove snow from the school roofs – it will keep all schools closed again on Tuesday - has also sent the bill higher.

On Monday, Assistant School Superintendent Peter Gray estimated the total cost of the snow removal work, since it began on Saturday, at $50,000.

“It will probably continue to grow,” he said.

Gray said Carolla Company is being paid $95 per hour per worker and the fire departments from both towns were paid $32 per hour per firefighters to clear snow from the school roofs. Custodians were being paid time and a half based on their current pay rate, he said.

As of Monday afternoon, the bill for Carolla’s work was $37,000, Gray said.

The bill will be paid from the school’s excess and deficiency fund, which was recently certified by state officials at $995,000.

“In reality, that is what the fund is for,” Gray said.

Originally, the removal process was estimated to cost about $30,000. The snow has been deeper and heavier than originally thought, he said. In addition, the thaw and freeze during the weekend made the snow heavier.

“What was light and fluffy is now heavy and wet,” he said.

Gray said he also checked to see whether parents and community volunteers could help clear the snow in hopes of opening school sooner – a suggestion that several people made in e-mails and .

“Our attorney said ‘not in a million years,’” Gray said.

The snow removal work is far different than a Saturday morning playground-raising, for example, he said.

The varying levels of the roofs and the “back-breaking work” to clear snow – more than 20 shovels have been broken since the work began on Saturday – is not a job for volunteers, he said, noting he appreciated the suggestion.

“Certainly their heart is in the right place,” he said.

Now that much of the snow from the roof is on the ground around the schools, the work now shifts to moving that snow away from the buildings.

“We need to make sure we are not blocking air vents and doorways,” Gray said.

That work is being completed by the town DPWs, Gray said. The bill for that work – and who will pay – has yet to be determined, he said.

“At this point, we want it cleared and we will talk later,” Gray said.

Gray also rebuffed the suggestion that the prolonged school closure – schools have been closed since – could have been avoided if school custodians had been shoveling the roofs all winter long.

The district’s 11 custodians had been busy clearing the parking lots and walkways as back-to-back storms continued to drop snow, he said.

Plus, the size of the roof is far larger than the custodian staff could handle in addition to their regular duties. The high school roof is about five acres and the middle school three acres.

On Monday, Gray said he began contacting other contractors to see if any were available to come to Hamilton and Wenham to supplement the work that already happening. Last week, when the school district first sought contactors to do the work, six of the eight contractors the district contacted said they were too busy to take the job. Gray said he’s checked back to see if some of those companies, or others, are available now.

Based on the current schedule, the last day of school for elementary and high school students will be June 28. But for students, who aren’t expected to return to school until Friday this week, the last day will be June 30. School leaders plan to start polling students and parents about possible options to make up the days on Saturdays, during April vacation and possibility other days. But the survey won’t be distributed until all the roofs are clear and all the students are back in school, Gray said.

Until then, Hamilton-Wenham is not alone. North Andover and Methuen have both said those communities will close school on Tuesday because of concerns about snow on the roof.

“This is not an isolated issue just for us,” he said.

The boys JV and varsity scheduled for Tuesday night at the Regional also won’t be held at the high school. Gray said the games will either be moved to – where practice has been held at no cost since the school buildings were shut down last week – or at North Andover High School, scheduled around the girls JV and varsity games. No decision has been made as of Monday afternoon.

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