With construction on the new Wilmington High School again delayed, parties on both sides of the debate continue to voice strong opinions in the wake of the latest set of appeals.
Friday was the deadline to file an appeal of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Superseding Order of Conditions, and two appeals reached town officials by the close of last week. As a result, construction will not begin on Tuesday as originally planned, and delays and cost increases are both possible.
“Obviously I am disappointed,” said Board of Selectmen chairman Newhouse. “These folks are intent on being disruptive and obstructionists. That is my opinion. At this point we have to let our attorneys and technical people prevail on the appeal. What’s really a shame is the amount of time and money that this going to cost the town, but I have every confidence that the town is going to prevail.”
In addition to the abutter appeal by Gerry O’Reilly, a second appeal was filed by Kevin MacDonald, George Lingenfelter, O’Reilly, Michael Bodnar, Mike Shay, Larissa Bodnar, Len Coffill, Arthur Jensen, George D’India, Grace Block, Winifred Gioiosa, Robert Clark, Evelyn Grassia and Ilona Lingenfelter.
Members of the Headwaters Stream Team are not signees of the current appeal after they were among those who appealed to the DEP earlier this summer. The DEP’s Superseding Order of Conditions addressed the issues HST members found in the original plans approved by the Conservation Commission.
Lingenfelter weighed in on his group’s decision to appeal, and said the 11 appellants are not the ones responsible for school construction delays.
“This is all the fault of Mike Caira and the Board of Selectmen,” said Lingenfelter. “None of these problems would exist if it weren’t for the way they approached this project.”
MacDonald, the spokesman of the 10-resident group, declined comment when reached by Wilmington Patch on Sunday night, but said he may issue a statement later in the week.
Town Manager Michael Caira declined to discuss how long the appeals process might take. But Caira, like other town officials, remained confident that the DEP’s position would be upheld as the appeal moves forward.
“We’ve had some discussions as to what the impact of the delay is,” said Caira. “But I think we need to reassess where we’re at and provide that information once we feel confident in what that information is. The town will take the appropriate steps to join with (the Department of Environmental Protection) to defend our position.”
Selectman Mike Champoux said he was not completely surprised by the appeal, which could end up in an adjudicatory hearing.
“My gut reaction was immediately a grave sense of disappointment,” said Champoux. “I had hoped that Mr. O’Reilly, or anyone else for that matter, would have felt that the process we have followed was thorough and comprehensive to the point that it would be unnecessary to go to any further level of appeal. I can’t think of any scenario where there would be grounds for any further appeal.”
Newhouse said there are ways to make up for lost time when construction does begin in an effort to keep the school on track for its scheduled opening. The town could hire subcontractors capable of working at night or on weekends, but Newhouse also said project managers also would need to research those companies and find out what cost would be associated with the hours required for the job.
The Board of Selectman chairman did not address the specifics of potential delays, saying there are too many variables to predict exactly how the process will go. But Newhouse did say that he does not expect the latest appeal to be resolved overnight.
“There’s no getting around that this was a very costly step for the entire town,” said Newhouse. “It’s certainly going to take a couple months. That’s just the way it is. Even if everything goes as efficiently as possible, we still cannot expect a decision in any less time than that. But I do presume the town will prevail. I’m more confident of that than I have ever been.”