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Task Force To Investigate Past Construction At Lake George High School

The Lake George Alumni and Community Task Force is being put together to investigate construction work done at the high school in the 80s and 90s. What first began several months ago as a Facebook group of concerned residents is now forming into an organization that plans to investigate a possible link between the work and health effects described by former students and staff members.

Task Force chairman John Conway, a Lake George High School alum now based in Colorado, says six of 10 members have been appointed so far.

“We’re almost there. We’ve got some community experts in the field of testing and mitigation. So the goal is to have a wide variety of expertise from in and around the community,” said Conway.

Conway said the group asked for a representative from the school district to be on the task force, but the district declined.

Several construction projects were completed to remove asbestos and other materials from the school.

Conway says that while members of the community have come forward reporting illnesses, the task force is entering its investigation with an open mind, believing the school followed guidelines and best practices.

“So really, our goal is just to confirm that one, the school followed the law and followed the best practices for the timelines that were involved, and really, present a report that allows the community to be at ease,” said Conway.

The objective of the task force is to collect and review data as it relates to health issues, gather information regarding hazardous materials removed from the school, and to assess the information to determine next steps.

Lake George Central School District superintendent Patrick Dee wrote a letter to Conway on May 4th, saying while the district appreciated an invitation to join the task force, it would not be appropriate for it to appoint members.

He writes, “Please be assured that it’s not that the School District is not concerned about the health and safety of the alumni and the community, it just is that is not part of our purpose at the School District.”

Dee also writes that the district will continue to cooperate to the extent of what is “possible and reasonable.”

A phone message to the superintendent was not returned Thursday. An attorney representing the district said she could not comment.

Conway had hoped the task force’s work would take about six months. He says while the district initially pledged its cooperation, its steps so far, including its decision to communicate through an attorney, could delay things. 

“We’re having to do requests and communication through a law firm. We’ve submitted some basic information on contractors to identify the contractors the contracts, and the invoices, and we had to do that through FOIL. So we recently got a letter through the school saying that the copies of the records and our requests could cost up to $27,000.”

As the group seeks to fill out its task force, it’s seeking community members with experience in building management, construction, asbestos mitigation and testing, legal, insurance, janitorial, and school administrator experience.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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