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Damage claims from Glover School construction blasting continue to climb; residents frustrated

Posted by Terri Ogan  February 1, 2013 12:31 PM

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Marblehead residents express frustration at a town meeting.

Distress continues to grow among Marblehead residents who have claimed property damage from the construction blasting of the new Glover Elementary School.

Since the week of January 20, some 27 residents have filed complaints with the Marblehead Fire Department about construction for the new Glover School that began in early September.

“You can see they’re [the complaints] coming in steadily,” said Marblehead Fire Chief James Gilliland. “But the blasting company has been coming in and cooperating.”

Some residents say the blasting has cracked walls and ceilings, and caused dirt and debris to enter their water mains.

“You would’ve thought you were in Syria, that F-15s were flying over and dropping bombs in our neighborhood,” said Barton Hyte, a resident of Alden Road. “That’s what the explosions were like.”

At a specially called meeting Thursday night, town officials and disgruntled residents gathered to touch base on the progress of the claims.

Once a property owner files a complaint, the opposing party, in this case, Maine Drilling and Blasting, has 30 days by law to respond to the claim. As of Thursday night’s meeting, the company had denied all liability to the damages.

“I think what is more frustrating is just the finger pointing,” said Tom Mealey of Maple Street. “You’re a taxpayer, you reach out to the town, nobody is accepting any sort of responsibility for anything…It’s a headache because it’s the frustration of the lack of accountability and someone just saying, ‘Yes, you do have an issue, let’s get it resolved,’ and I think that’s what everyone in the room wants.”

Mealey added that up until Thursday night’s meeting he was pursuing the town to resolve the issue. He sent letters to the superintendent, Greg Maass, as well as the town administrator and the town’s water department.

According to Pat Costello, Marblehead’s legal council, the town does not have legal authority in the case.

“If we were to interject ourselves in this matter, and say ‘We’ll satisfy your claims, we’ll address it,’ we would have no recourse as against the blasting company so long as we don’t have evidence that they had breached their contract,” Costello said at the meeting. “You folks, as the property owners, who sustained damage, do have a direct right to go after the blasting contractor. The town doesn’t.”

A possible next step for residents is to pursue legal action, Costello added, which is what the residents intend to do.

“Legal action is bound to happen one way or another,” said Kaarina Kvaavik of Tedesco Street. “I think there are a lot of upset people. It’s not necessarily the size of the damage, it’s not like ‘oh my entire house fell down on my head,’ but it’s the way that it’s been managed, or should I say mismanaged, and it’s the way we’ve been treated about this.”

In an effort to initiate a resolution, Maass gathered claims from residents and sent them out to insurance companies himself, rather than through the town.

“I’m just trying to represent what it is that the neighbors believe are legitimate claims and I’m trying to do that in person to impress upon them the importance of having some kind of review,” Maass said. “Emotion happens because of circumstance.”

Residents within 250 feet of the school are permitted a pre-blasting survey prior to the construction to assess and document damages in a structure and protect homeowners. If claims are filed, a post-blasting survey is conducted. The two surveys are then compared to determine if there are cracks present after the construction that were not present before.

A majority of the residents that have filed claims did not have their property pre-surveyed, and said they were denied the opportunity to do so. Some residents, like Hyte, documented their houses themselves.

Maine Drilling and Blasting was unable to be reached for comment.

“When you see everyone’s homes, we generally all have the same issues,” Hyte said. “It’s clean as day. You can look at it and you can see that they’re fresh cracks. It’s very obvious.”

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