At the June 22 Board of Selectmen meeting, the board members unanimously voted in favor of authorizing plans to repair a significant section of the roof at the Cider Mill School, along with the canopy in front of the school’s main entrance.

Chris Burney, director of Wilton’s Department of Public Works, informed the BOS about the time-sensitive need for the Cider Mill roof work, and explained how it fit into the town’s overall roof maintenance plan.

“This is a continuation of the program we started [about] four years ago. We never had a coordinated approach to maintaining roofs,” Burney said, “And one of the keys to maintaining is that you don’t wait for it to leak before you do some work, because once it leaks, you’re behind the eight ball.”

Burney explained that the town’s approach to roof maintenance involved conducting surveys of all town-owned roofs, including those at the schools, which consisted of visual and physical surveys, some electronic testing, and infrared testing. Armed with those surveys, the town then contracted for the necessary repair work, beginning with approximately $500,000 for repair/replacement of the Wilton High School roof, followed by extensive work at Town Hall.

Given the baseline survey results, the Cider Mill roof was next on Burney’s radar. He told the BOS, “I was concerned about a large section of Cider Mill[‘s roof], so we repeated some of the testing and confirmed that there’s an entire section that needs to be replaced. It has so many problems that to try and patch it would not be possible.”

Burney also recommended improving the canopy in front of the school, along the bus loop. “There is presently no roof there,” Burney noted, “just some sheets of corrugated steel.”

After soliciting multiple bids for the work, Burney recommended the lowest proposal, at a cost of about $604,000. (The next proposal was $700,000.)

Roofing projects fall under the town’s five-year capital improvement plan. The $600,000 intended for the Cider Mill roof was included in the 2022-2026 bonding requests. (First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice indicated the very small cost overage of roughly $4,000 could be easily managed under the town’s operating budget).

Vanderslice also noted that the contract for the Cider Mill roof project is the same contract Wilton used on previous roof projects, but would still be subject to sign-off by town counsel.

Timing Is Everything

Burney felt time was of the essence in moving forward with a signed contract. “We really feel that we need to get this done before the second or third weekend in August, [before] the schools return.”

Driving Burney’s sense of urgency were materials shortages that have become all too familiar in recent months to anyone doing a construction project. While he assured the BOS that the contract had locked-in pricing, he had some concerns about the availability of certain materials, including a fibrous insulation board that was needed for the canopy.

“I’m not concerned about price, but delivery [of materials for] the canopy section may be an issue,” Burney warned.

Staying Ahead of Damage

When asked by Selectwoman Deborah McFadden if any consequences of roof damage, such as mold in the walls, had been detected in the process of conducting any of the town’s roof work, Burney said the answer was no, and attributed that to the success of the proactive maintenance approach.

“One of the advantages of the testing and identification process is that it alerts us to conditions before they become a problem … We’re able to map precisely where the water has penetrated the roof, but we’re doing this before we see the evidence of water underneath. So we’re able to get [that evidence] off the top layer of the roof and then one or two layers of insulation, and we’ve not actually had water penetrating the deck.”

Staying ahead of the damage will continue to be Burney’s approach.

“My plan is certainly to continue this for the next few years, as we work through all of the roofs that we have that are in the 20-, 25-, 30-year-old process. That’s one of the benefits of this proactive program,” Burney said, with another reminder. “As I said at the beginning of my presentation, once you can see the roofs leaking and you have water coming in, you’re already behind the eight ball.”