Photo Gallery | Colegrove Park Elementary School construction
NORTH ADAMS -- After the old Conte Middle School gymnasium was demolished, workers uncovered two mysterious brick-lined tunnels that had lain dormant under the school's gymnasium for uncounted years.
Closed at both ends, the tunnels led nowhere and contained nothing.
As is typical in the demolition phase of a major construction project, there will be surprises that pop up along the way -- some that may require a change in plans or more money.
"Whenever we open a ceiling, you never know what you're going to find," said Daniel Daisy, construction representative and on-site supervisor for contractor SBS.
The 77,000-square-foot building is being retrofitted to become an elementary school for students in kindergarten through seventh grade. Eighty percent of the construction costs are being covered by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
Beyond the tunnel oddity, nothing has developed that has the potential to delay the $29.6 million renovation of the former Conte Middle School, city officials report.
"We have not encountered any unexpected issues," said North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, who also is chairman of the School Committee. "The vast majority of the [demolition] work is done, and we're starting on the roof now."
He said the old oil tank came out without any problems, and window removal and abatement is continuing on pace, with the new windows on order.
"We're making good, steady progress," he said.
The gymnasium, which had been added to the building in the 1970s, was in bad shape and had to come down.
When the work started, the gym floor was wet from the roof leaks, Daisy noted.
The former middle school library will be transformed into a gymnasium, Daisy said. The former balcony already has been removed.
Once the gym was down and debris was being removed, the tunnels were discovered about three weeks ago, Daisy said.
Nobody knows what they were for, Daisy said.
"If they were steam trenches, there would have been signs of water damage," he said. "But aren't any. There's no sign of anything in there."
The tunnels were rectangular, about 4 feet by 4 feet, 10 to 15 feet long, and closed on all sides. Daisy speculated that they may have been part of an earlier land use, but he wasn't sure what.
There was also a sinkhole found in the basement, which probably resulted from a broken water pipe years ago. But it wasn't much of a problem once it was filled in, Daisy said.
Conte Middle School closed in 2010 when the district shifted into a model where elementary schools serve grades K-7, and the high school handles grades 8-12, eliminating the need for a middle school.
Colegrove Park Elementary School will replace Sullivan School and will house just over 300 students.
To reach Scott Stafford:
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