Haverhill School Air Quality Improves; City Hall Accessibility is Next Public Building Priority

Old retaining wall behind Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News photograph.)

Haverhill’s public buildings czar says there have been many improvements, particularly in schools, over the past three months, but there is still much to do, including making City Hall more accessible to people with disabilities.

Stephen D. Dorrance, who was hired to manage maintenance for both Haverhill’s schools and public buildings, told the City Council Tuesday that facing colder weather, numerous mechanical problems and the coronavirus, he and his crew had to hit the ground running. In particular, getting the school’s heating and ventilation systems up to snuff was a priority.

“Ventilation is really the thing that has consumed a lot of resources because all through this COVID process, without air exchanges in the buildings, we would have had sick buildings, and I can tell you that I am unaware of a single ventilation fan that is not working. We have replaced dozens and dozens of them. The schools are in really good shape from a mechanical point of view, all of them,” Dorrance told councilors.

Meanwhile, on the city side, Purchasing Director Steven S. Bucuzzo was appointed interim facilities director to manage any issues while Dorrance acclimates himself to his position. He said work has been proceeding on projects at the Water Street Fire Station, Police Station and other buildings including City Hall.

“We’re currently working on projects for the replacement of the large retaining wall in the back of the city hall, including the correction of some water infiltration issues into the building and the removal of an old oil tank. We are also working on installing a new generator to power all the city and school IT infrastructure when we lose power for significant periods of time,” he explained.

One area that has not seen enough improvement at city hall is conforming to accessibility guidelines. Because the building is more than 100 years old, it is exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act, but Bucuzzo said nonetheless, the city has begun work in that area.

“We’ve installed ADA-compliant toilets, faucets in the rest rooms. We are in the process of seeking quotes to install push-button entry buttons for all the restrooms and then, after that, we’ll proceed to work on some of the offices to bring this building into compliance, and we will work over time to do that as funding is available,” he said.

After hearing from both men, councilors agreed building management is now moving in the right direction and any money needed to keep that progress going should be provided. Members also voted unanimously to send a letter to Mayor James J. Fiorentini requesting a survey be done to make sure the city is fully ADA-compliant at all of its buildings.

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