The Big Dig

What sink hole? This was part of the plan all along, trust us.

What sink hole? This was part of the plan all along; trust us.

Bill Effros, a/k/a Lovable Whack Job, has a lengthy comment posted in the comments section about MISA and our impending doom. I’d hate to see it buried there, so I’m reposting it here.

You have visualized correctly, however that was not the calculation used by BOE in order to propose putting the bottom of the foundation 15 feet above sea level.

The architects claim they were told the building itself could be 45 feet above ground level, that they had to wind up with 750 on-site parking spaces, and that they had to bring in the project for $15 million.

Their original proposal called for building a new auditorium 45 feet high over a 2 level parking garage. There were only 2 flies in this ointment. First, it boosted the projected cost above $25 million. And second, the acoustic engineers told BOE the acoustics in the new auditorium would be no better than the acoustics in the old auditorium unless the interior dimension from the top of the stage to the bottom of the ceiling was at least 67 feet.

So, the parking garage was eliminated, and a 70 foot high building was proposed that would extend only 45 feet above ground level, and 25 feet below ground level.

That was when someone pointed out that this 70 foot high auditorium had been designed without any foundation to hold it up. The architects went back to their drawing boards, and returned with a 15 foot high mechanical section, under the stage, that would house massive elevator machinery capable of raising and lowering an entire 170 member chorus; in addition to giant sump pumps and electrical generating equipment needed to get rid of the water that would inevitably flood into the huge underground chamber, now extending 40 feet below ground level.

Site Plans for the western side of the MISA Auditorium show a ground level ranging from 40 to 45 feet. That meant the piles for the foundation would be driven directly into the Long Island Sound seabed–a dicey proposal from an engineering standpoint, and one sure to raise the building cost to unacceptable levels.

This problem was solved by producing site plans in which the ground level was changed from 40-45 feet to 50-55 feet. Now the base of the building would start 15 feet above sea level, and the piles could be driven into the solid rock below.

Yes, of course, the building would extend 55-60 feet above the actual ground level, but who would notice? What could they do? It would be too late.

Enter the PCBs.

In 2011, without approval for the changed architectural plans, BOE started digging, only to discover the 10 feet of fill, added to the 40-45 foot ground level in the fields behind the high school, contained massive quantities of PCBs and other known carcinogens.

Construction stopped and testing began. “The soil borings will be completed using a Geoprobe direct-push drilling machine” according to a BOE press release. Samples were collected, some to a depth of 45 feet without ever hitting rock. Those samples went no deeper only because the testing equipment was incapable of going deeper.

While the MISA site plan indicated rock below the surface, in fact, in many locations, there was no rock at all–just solid peat topped off with PCB contaminated fly ash and top soil, sitting on the Long Island Sound seabed. There was nothing to build the foundation on.

The Toxic Substances Control Act Administrator’s conditional approval letter of Dec. 3, 2012 requires, among other things, 5 foot thick solid reinforced concrete encapsulation of PCBs not removed from the GHS site. This encapsulation must be compliant with EPA regulations, and must completely contain all PCBs left under the MISA foundation, so that not a single PCB molecule can ever escape either into ground water or surface water. Monitoring equipment must be installed, and maintained, in perpetuity, to ensure PCB encapsulation compliance, forever. These terms are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency in the form of a “Perpetual Deed Restriction” which requires disclosure of the encapsulated PCBs every time any neighboring property is transferred or mortgaged. (Mortgages are not offered by many lending institutions to properties adjacent to PCB storage facilities.)

BOE told us the “Coffer Dam” would do the trick. It has not.

BOE has always known it is at least impractical, probably impossible, and certainly astronomically expensive, to build MISA as shown in the plans presented to The Planning and Zoning Commission, PZBA, BET, Selectmen, RTM, EPA, The Army Corps of Engineers, CT-DEEP, IWWA, The Conservation Commission, The Press, and the public.

BOE never had any intention to build MISA as shown in those plans; they intended only to use the plans to get final approvals. Then they intended to build almost all of the building above ground, through a series of work-order changes that would have more than doubled the approved cost, and resulted in the largest building in the Town of Greenwich, located on property zoned “residential”, without adequate parking, 3 times as high as permitted pursuant to stipulations contained in court orders, and rented out as a commercial facility to generate revenue.

The discovery of PCBs changed everything, and BOE has been backed into trying to build MISA, from a point 15 feet above sea level, according to plans everyone knows cannot possibly work.

The only real question is how much more money TOG taxpayers will have to spend to unwind this situation..

Bill Effros
Bill@Effros.com

21 Comments

Filed under MISA

21 responses to “The Big Dig

  1. Riverside Dog Walker

    And here I thought all these years dating back to when he opposed the football field light towers that he really was a whack job. Such a person would be incapable of presenting such complex information in a clear, detailed and logical manner as he has consistently done on this site on this topic.

    I can hope his facts are wrong (hope not being a viable strategy for any endeavor in life) but the best case is that the high school doesn’t have to be abandoned as he has suggested. It should be clear to everyone at this point that cutting the losses on this project is the best course of action (and I have found cutting one’s losses to be a very viable and prudent strategy no matter the issue).

    • Riverside Dog Walker,

      I was bludgeoned into attending my first neighborhood meeting fifteen years ago. I went to the bathroom during the (extremely lengthy) meeting, and when I returned, discovered I had been named spokesperson for the group “because you live closest to the football field.”

      Prior to that I was a government agnostic. We moved to Greenwich for the school system. My kids got an incredible education. We got beach cards. I lived in the amazing library…I got along by going along.

      As you may remember, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Roger Lulow, declared “Stadium Lights” the top educational priority of the Greenwich School System, after being personally approached by an “Anonymous Donor” who offered to install the lights, free of charge, pay all permitting fees, and remove them if they did not perform to specifications. Dr. Lulow refused to tell the Board of Education, or anyone else, who this “anonymous donor” was.

      My neighbors immediately informed the Town of the existence of “An Ironclad Agreement” (The Eminent Domain Agreement) between the Town, and the Neighbors, prohibiting the installation of light poles more than 8 feet high, or their use before 5am or after 8am.

      Dr. Lulow said he would drop the proposal if anyone could show him evidence that nighttime football games were prohibited at the high school site.

      In March, 2001, in the company of then “Third Selectman”, Richard Bergstresser, (who lives on Old Church Road) I went to Dr. Lulow’s office with a copy of a transcript of a March 19, 1975 Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals (PZBA) meeting at which Norma von Brock, a member of the Greenwich Board of Education, promised PZBA the single playing field allowed on high school grounds would never be lighted, or used at night.

      Dr. Lulow, who had only recently moved from his home in Ohio, to Greenwich, declared, not surprisingly, he had never heard of “Norma von Brock”; had no way to know if she really represented the Board of Education; and, more surprisingly, did not consider himself bound by her declarations made 26 years previously, regardless.

      And so began this saga.

      Like you, I imagine, I hadn’t the slightest idea what PCBs were when they were first discovered on the high school grounds, nor the vaguest inkling the Department of Public Works had recently deposited them there.

      DPW has so polluted the site it cannot possibly ever be used again as a school. Town officials are scrambling now to cover their tracks—which has proved extraordinarily difficult because PCBs are quite unique, stick to everything, and leave tracks all over, forever.

      PCBs are a deadly poison that doesn’t break down over time. They can be swallowed or enter our bodies through our skin. They accumulate inside our bodies—we have no mechanism to excrete them. They cause cancer and birth defects. They are especially dangerous inside the bodies of young women, causing gene mutations in their babies that are passed from one generation to the next.

      One would think that’s all anyone has to know about PCBs, or whether the school is safe.

      Bill Effros
      bill@effros.com

  2. It doesn’t matter how much money has to be spent, because it’s ‘other people’s money.’

  3. Cobra

    Sounds alarmingly consistent with other BOE initiatives. What a bunch of scam artists.

  4. EOSredux

    Speaking of Big Digs, I am about to head to the Brewster Home Depot to buy them out of incandescent light bulbs. I plan to bury them in my own backyard MISA Gold Dome and sell them off one box at a time, ensuring a lottery size retirement nest egg without actually buying a lottery ticket.

  5. Jack Graves

    Dear God, I hope none of these people or their children ever move to Indiana. How do you stand it?

  6. One might ask what regulatory oversight goes into such an important venture, impacting the health of our students and the cost to tax-payers.

    I recently sat through a meeting of our Inland Wetlands Agency, in which they decided to pass on having a permit modification from the Agency for the GHS PCB Remediation Project.

    Quoting from the published minutes of the Sept 23rd, 2013 IWWA Session:

    DPW—Remedial Action Plan

    Details of the Remedial Action Plan were provided by Commissioner Amy Siebert and Malcolm Beeler of AECOM. The summary was a truncated presentation which was previously shared with members of the public
    on September 18, 2013. Members of the Agency were informed of the procedures that would be necessary to remediate hazmats and volatile compounds contained on site.

    At the conclusion of the presentation, Agency Director Michael Chambers noted that the Agency has an active Permit for activities dealing with the Music Instructional Space and Auditorium (MISA) as well as the parking reconfiguration and noted oversight of those activities required staff’s consistent monitoring of the site. Because the Agency office continues to work very closely with the Department of Public Works regarding the development of the RAP, Staff recommended that the Agency not require the submission of a Permit Modification to oversee the removal of the onsite hazardous materials.

    An informal poll of the Agency found that members agreed with the Director’s position. Commissioner Siebert stated that she would be comfortable re-presenting details of the final draft report to members of the Agency, once it had been prepared. No Agency action was required.

  7. Greenwich Taxpayer

    For those of you interested in the EPA findings that Bill Effros cited there is a link on the Greenwich Public School website. He is correct that the EPA requires capping of the MISA footprint. I don’t know who is covering the MISA site for the Greenwich newspapers (are there any Greenwich newspapers left in Greenwich) but they are falling down on the job. They buy into whatever the BOE and BET say without digging and presenting all the facts. Sad day for Greenwich Taxpayers who are allowing this to happen by not voicing their outrage at public meetings.

    • In defense of Town News Outlets:

      Greenwich Time has run numerous front page stories, Bob Horton front page columns, and letters to the editor presenting the neighbors’ side of GHS issues.

      Greenwich Time filed a complaint with The Freedom of Information Commission on March 28, 2013 charging denial of access to a February 26, 2013 combined meeting of The Selectmen, BET, DPW, BOE, AECOM, MISA Project Directors, MISA Contractors, and Outside Legal Counsel; from which the Press, Public, RTM, P&Z, PZBA, IWWA, and Conservation Commission were excluded. The meeting lasted for an hour and a half. The Town claims no minutes of the meeting were recorded, and not a single participant took notes. The Town admitted to conducting more than one meeting like this with the same participants included and excluded.

      The trial officer’s hearing for this complaint (#FIC 2013-186) was held on September 26, 2013. As part of the hearing, Town Attorney John Wayne Fox told the hearing officer the meetings had to exclude the public and various Town Agencies because the Town didn’t have all the environmental permits necessary to begin work on MISA, and the participants at the meeting needed to get their story straight for subsequent presentations to other Town Agencies required for permits and authorizations from those agencies. Mr. Fox testified the town still does not, “to this day”, have all environmental permits required to begin work on MISA.

      On February 28, 2013 Greenwich Post ran this letter from me in its “Letters to the Editor” section:

      To the Editor
      No one will say it, but it’s becoming more and more clear that the Town of Greenwich (TOG) MISA Building Committee (MISA-BC) fraudulently obtained a PCB Remediation Permit by providing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) with a false narrative contradicted by TOG records available in the offices of the TOG Wetlands Agency (IWWA) and the TOG Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z).
      On Wednesday, March 6, 2013 between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m. at Central Middle School, the MISA-BC must explain the terms of The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) MISA-PCB Remediation Permit in a public meeting.
      I am urging everyone concerned about PCBs in our schoolyards to please join me at the March 6 meeting, which will be preceded by an “Open House” at which individuals can directly address their questions to town, state and federal officials.
      Please record your conversations with officials on cell phones and video cameras so people who cannot attend the meeting will know what was said.
      I will post information about the meeting at MISA-PCB.org.
      Bill Effros
      Greenwich

      Ken Borsuk, editor of Greenwich Post, has printed every letter to the editor I ever sent to him. Also, Ken has become the institutional memory of this Town, having personally attended a mind-numbing number of Town Meetings, and faithfully reporting what transpired.

      Leslie Yeager at Greenwich Patch invited me to Blog on their Pages. I draw your attention to this blog posted May 1, 2013:

      http://greenwich.patch.com/groups/bill-effross-blog/p/stop-this-billion-dollar-boondoggle

      Brian Harrod at Greenwich Round-Up gave me publishing rights on Greenwich Round-Up:

      http://greenwichroundup.blogspot.com/2013/08/from-bill-effros.html

      And, of course, Chris Fountain, who memorably called me “That lovable whack job”:

      https://christopherfountain.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/oh-the-irony-2/

      Everyone, from all of these publications, has provided me with information I never would have found by myself.

      Bill Effros
      bill@effros.com

      PS – Thanks, Chris, for posting a more flattering picture.

  8. Patrick

    This project needs to be shut down. A music room is just not that important.

  9. Patrick

    Bill – Thanks for the work digging into this. Your posts have been very informative and from my research factually correct. We really need to figure out how to close this project down.

    • Thanks, Patrick,

      The project will shut itself down. It simply cannot be built as designed, no matter how much money is poured into it.

      The only real question is what it will cost–the cost is heading towards a billion dollars, and I’m not responsible for any of it.

      The Town is lying (there is no other word for it) to Federal and State Agencies. When they figure this out, and they eventually will, they will start imposing sanctions on top of the astronomical remediation costs.

      If we self-report before they find us out we can cut a much more favorable remediation deal, and possibly avoid sanctions.

      Talk to your district RTM members. Have them push whatever buttons must be pushed. Speak to Town Officials about what you know. Talk to your friends…

      When this story hits the New York Times it will be too late.

      Bill Effros
      bill@effros.com

  10. Anonymous

    What a scary (and lucid) posting by our loveablewhackjob. Thank you. As much as the obvious solution is to cease and desist on this money pit, it won’t. This project has too many egos and reputations (BOE, PTA, BOS, BET, RTM—name the entity that didn’t stop this at many points that it could and should have) to admit they were wrong. Who suffers? It seems to this reader—the children who attend this toxic laden school; neighbors that surround the school; other Greenwich schools that will see fewer dollars available for their needed maintenance and new school facility work; and of course, the sucker taxpayer. I wonder if this mobilizes (finally!) the average Greenwich resident to speak out or will the media, BOE /BET hearings continue to be be dominated by the BOE/PTA?

  11. greenwich dude

    bill

    i think with the clarity of your presentation here on this blog, some (probably appropriate) outrage is catching on. i know reading it myself i sure wish we had access to better information as town citizens and taxpayers.

    a humble suggestion – what i would do, if i was as in-command of the facts as it seems you are, is to pull together a 20-40 slide deck that is complete, clear and authoritatively annotated from town resources as possible that tells the story of this project and its constraints. where you don’t have data, invite Peter Tesei and his gang to fill it in.

    then I’d entreat CF to post it on this blog and make it available for download – nothing travels faster and motivates action more than a truly great slide deck that tells a meaningful narrative.

    i personally would be happy to work on it. remember what al gore did? the guy was not completely stupid – he had AWESOME slides. get going, and motivate this town to action!

    • Greenwich Dude,

      The beginning of the slide deck can be found on MISA-PCB.org. Thanks for the offer to help, I’ll take you up on that in a heartbeat. I have literally thousands of photographs, many converted to presentation formats, ranging from “PCB Remediation for Dummies” to “How to Fill a Swamp”.

      How should we present them?

      Where should we present them?

      When do we start?

      Get in touch back-channel so I can send stuff directly to you. There is no copyright issue on any of this stuff–I own all the rights.

      Bill Effros
      bill@effros.com

  12. Demmerkrat Patriot

    I agree this is the most cogent missive Mr. Effros has written. However, his past missives have not been as fact based nor as well written, and the arguments contained within were dismissed.

    If nothing else, the taxpayers should demand, through legal means, a complete accounting of the project and its current status.

    The taxpayers will now understand how important local elections are, and the need for electoral reform in Greenwich. As it stands, the best (and most efficient) recourse for the taxpayers is to have the registered Republicans and Democrats flood the upcoming Republican and Democratic Town Committee meetings to have a better voice in choosing who is actually appointed to run the town.

    My question will always be: will the voters get involved enough to make the changes? Past history does not indicate that enough voters will rise to the occasion. I hope I am proven wrong this time around.

    • Demmerkrat Patriot,

      Ah, the complete accounting! Hard to know where to start with that one.

      I was always taught to “follow the money”. I’ve been trying for the past dozen years. All trails lead nowhere.

      To take a simple illustrative example. Playing Field Lights proponents claimed 3,500 people attended the first night game played at GHS based on ticket receipts.

      I was told $5 a ticket was charged ($17,500) and the gate receipts were deposited in the Town General Fund. When I went to the Treasurer’s office, the Treasurer told me she had received a total, for the entire football season, of barely over $1,000. So I asked to see the basketball receipts for the season–$500 and something. Hockey receipts for the season–$46…

      So, I asked the athletic director, who provided the 3,500 person attendance figure, what was going on? “Band Members and parents get free passes.” I was told. “How many passes have you issued?” “200”.

      And so it goes. That was quite a few years ago, and not my last try.

      And, why, exactly, do we have an outside attorney at $350/hr (?) as the Town Attorney? How much is Mr. Fox raking in a year? I’ll bet we can get a good full-time Town Attorney for more hours and less money—if I could only find out how much Mr. Fox gets, and what it’s for. (Instead of a Town Attorney advising our amateur legislators and committee members how to comply with the law, we have an outside attorney who profits every time he has to defend actions clearly outside the law.)

      And, what’s the deal with the First Selectman? Who could possibly want that job for what it pays? Chris—Let’s start a “Fair Pay for First Selectmen” group so we can attract good candidates for this job who won’t need to augment their income with side deals.

      A complete accounting, even an incomplete accounting, is long overdue. How do we get one?

      Bill Effros
      bill@effros.com

  13. Is this the same Mr. Effros whose pursued the selfish and futile litigation over the GHS fields’ lights for years? Became so personally obsessed with the football team playing 3 or 5 night games annually on the GHS site that the town was obliged to obtain an injunction prohibiting him from disrupting town meetings on the topic?

    We’d like an impartial resume of the outcome of the first obsession before joining this one.

    And no, the taxpayers won’t be throwing away our high school because Mr. Effros lives next to it, and doesn’t like it.

    • Balzac,

      About that “injunction”. It wasn’t exactly an “injunction”, as we normally use that word.

      As part of the Court Order, the Town was required to allow me to monitor the High School Grounds. I was named a member of the “Monitoring Committee”. I filed a copy of the Court Order with the police, BOE, RTM, P&Z, Parks and Rec, PZBA, Greenwich Public Schools, BET, IWWA, Town Legal Department, Town Clerk, Selectmen, and anybody else I could think of, to ensure there would be no question I was permitted to monitor the high school grounds at all hours of the day and night. (A lot happens at the high school when there is no one to call–this was one of the complaints of the neighbors.)

      One day, about 4 1/2 years ago, I heard jackhammers and went down to the high school, with my video camera, to investigate. I asked the workmen if they had a building permit, and was told none was required. I stopped in front of the cooling tower to record the decibels coming from it (it’s about as loud as a 747 landing).

      Suddenly, the on-campus cop came rushing up, told me I was trespassing, and that I had to leave. I thought he was kidding, but no, he was insistent I immediately leave the premises, which I did, notwithstanding the fact there were hundreds of other adults on campus at the same time, and not before pointing out to him I had a court order allowing me to monitor the grounds, and requesting he come to my home so I could show him the Court Order.

      20 minutes later 2 police cars came down my driveway, there was a loud banging on my front and side doors, I went to the front door and was ordered out of my house, I was told to put my camera down “because it might be a weapon”, then I was handcuffed, placed in the back of one of the police cars, driven down to the police station, shackled to a wall, interrogated, “I know you are lying because you shifted your eyes to the left…”, finger printed, had mug shots taken, was told I would be charged with trespassing. Then, one of the cops told me I would be released if I signed a piece of paper.

      I signed the piece of paper, and a second, before asking for the time to read what I was signing. Mind you, my left arm was still shackled to the wall. The piece of paper said I had been arrested at the high school, and the charge was first degree trespassing, punishable by up to a year in jail.

      I told the cops I wasn’t signing any more pieces of paper. I had been arrested at my house 20 minutes after leaving the high school, and I wanted the 2 pieces of paper I had already signed, back. I was taken to a holding cell, told to remove my belt and shoe laces, and that if I didn’t sign the rest of the pieces of paper I would stay in jail until I was brought to trial.

      Some time later, my wife called on my cell phone. The cops told me to tell her to bring $500 in cash to bail me out. After giving them the money, the cop who arrested me told me one of the conditions of bail was that I could not set foot on the high school grounds, or I would be arrested again and held in jail until my trial.

      In the strictest sense, I suppose that is an injunction. But I believe most people think in terms of “court ordered injunctions”, which this was not. Most people would call this a “condition of bail”.

      Please note, I video taped the entire time I was on campus. I can prove events transpired exactly as narrated above. First degree trespassing requires either entry into a building or refusal to leave when lawfully requested by authorities. Two of the police reports filed by two of the cops state events exactly as stated by me, above. The third police report states I refused to leave the high school, and was arrested there.

      That was 4 ½ years ago. I demanded a jury trial. (When you face a year in jail you can get a jury trial.) So far, nothing. I haven’t been on the high school grounds in 4 ½ years, except once, when I forgot, after being invited by The MISA Building Committee.

      The State’s attorney refused to drop the charges. He threatened to charge me with child pornography for photographing young boys in the swimming pool. I suppose he didn’t realize school was not in session at the time, and no one was in the pool; not to mention the fact I never left the parking lot, was never anywhere near the pool, and have a continuous video tape to prove it.

      Periodically the State offers to reduce the charges, or let me enter an “accelerated rehabilitation” program as a “first offender”, if only I will plead guilty to something I didn’t do.

      I believe I was arrested to keep me off the grounds so I could not fight MISA.

      There is no injunction to keep me out of meetings. As an abutting property owner, the Town is required to allow me to attend, to allow me to speak, and to give me written notice of GHS site plan submissions and changes.

      Bill Effros
      bill@effros.com

  14. Anonymous

    Where are you people when town boards are voting on this. Are you just sitting on your butts playing with your computer. Get out and engage. Speak at the meetings. Call your RTM members . Get yourself on the RTM. There are very few of us publicly fighting this disaster. When the speakers are 8-2 in favor it gets passed. Engage beyond this blog.