15 Sep 2014
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School Official Stands By Handling of Leaky Malverne Roof

Assistant superintendent says he still would have wanted residents to vote on roof repairs even if he knew of existing warranty.

School Official Stands By Handling of Leaky Malverne Roof

The news that the Malverne school district n repairing a roof at its high school, unaware that it was still covered under warranty, led to a tense discussion at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting.

"How could you not know?" one Malverne resident asked Spiro Colaitis, assistant superintendent for district operations, after he admitted that he was not aware of the 20-year warranty when he recommended the school board tap into the district's Capital Reserves Fund to fix the leaky roof. As a result, the board o the May 15 ballot, , giving the district permission to utilize up to $312,000 for the repairs.

Colaitis brought in two experts to assess the damaged roof, who estimated that, based on the level of deterioration, it must be at least 25 years old, much too old to still be under warranty. It turns out though, it's only 11 years old.

Outgoing Trustee Karen Aker discovered that the roof was still under warranty when she made some phone calls to past employees, who indicated to her that the roof was repaired in 1996. (Colaitis, however, contends that the roof was only patched in 1996 and that the warranty in place now is from the roof replacement done 2001, which means nine years remain on it.) 

"The reason we had the vote is because we didn't know about the warranty when we put the proposition up," Colaitis said. "We had 24 hours to make the decision because of time limits ... No files could be found."

"So that is bad management," the Malverne resident retorted.

Colaitis responded, saying that "had I known about the warranty at the time, I still would've recommended the board to go ahead with the vote."

His reason for this was that there is no guarantee the contractor would honor the warranty.

"We have a contractor who is honoring it right now," Colaitis said, but explained that after working on the roof on three separate dates -- May 16, June 11 and June 12 -- the district still is not certain the problem has been resolved. (They also learned that the manufacturer of the roofing system has several pending lawsuits.)

"What if the roof is never fixed to our satisfaction?" he added. "In a perfect world, if that roof is turned into a water-tight system to our satisfaction, the money stays in the bank, it never comes out."

However, if the contractor is not able to fix the leaks, Colaitis would recommend repairing the roof using the $312,000 the taxpayers authorized for the project and then seek legal action with the contractor to be reimbursed.

"We have a roof that's leaking over a building we have to address," he said. "We can't just wait for someone to come and fix it."

It was at this point that Aker spoke up and questioned whether the roof was also under warranty, from the 1996 repair, when the work was done in 2001.

"How much did it cost the taxpayers in 2001?" Aker asked. "In '96, I was told a full roof was being done ... If we would've gone back, say in 1996, to see what was done, then in 2001, we might not have had to spend anything to have it fixed."

Colaitis, citing conversations he had with a former district employee and the roof's manufacturer, continued to say that the warranty did not start until the roof was completely replaced in 2001.

"The bigger issue is not so much that we have a warranty now ... but the operational procedure," said Trustee Gina Genti. "How something like this could get missed."

Genti proposed putting a mechanism in place to make it easier for the district to track and access records in situations like this.

"Had we not have the deadline of the vote coming up I would've done more research, asked more questions, and done by due dilligence," Colaitis said. "But in those 24 hours, I still would've recommended to go through with the proposition even if I knew there was a warranty. We have to give the board options."

"All the options were not laid out," Genti argued, saying that Colaitis could have recommended the board give him more time to research the problem and put off voting on it until a later date. However, this route would have required the district to spend more money on organizing a second election.

"Why would you do that?" Colaitis said. "We're saving the taxpayers money by not doing a second vote and by approving a proposition, we haven't spend a dime ... The money is sitting there and will not be spent until the contractor fails to return this to a water-tight system."

Look for more coverage of the June 12 Board of Education meeting later this week on Patch.

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