Tag Archives: Greenwich High School MISA

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


Filed under MISA

How many kids did Greenwich place in the National Youth Orchestra this year?

Lincoln High School, SD

Lincoln High School, SD

NPR aired an interesting story this morning on the CarnegieHall sponsored National Youth Orchestra, a group of 140 students from 38 states now practicing in Purchase before heading to the Kennedy Center and then Russia. The snippet of a performance NPR played in the background (Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, I believe, but those with more musical knowledge than I should feel free to correct me) sounded more than just professional; it was great.

I was struck by a conversation the reporter had with 17-year old trombonist Skye Dearborn, from Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls, SD, because it made me wonder what sort of music facilities the school provides its students to get a girl like Skye all the way to Carnegie Hall. I couldn’t find out that exact information but I did learn that Lincoln was named as one of the best 1,200 high schools in the country by Newsweek in 2006 and, while it does have a marching band that has performed, several times, in the Rose Bowl, it spends just $7,288 per pupil, per year. Total enrollment at the high school is 1,986. Judging from its picture, Lincoln looks like a very nice school: quite similar to our own high school, in fact.

But whatever the relative cost of living between Greenwich and Sioux Falls, I’m pretty sure that there’s no $55 million music palace at Lincoln High – not when they’re spending just about one-third per pupil what we are. Makes you wonder whether Greenwich parents’ insistence that such an edifice is essential to their children’s success is in fact true; I’ll bet it isn’t.


Filed under Uncategorized