The road to breaking ground on the new school facilities has been a long process, but with new construction bids coming in slightly lower than the first attempt, the Joint Education Committee has decided to move forward in requesting that the Board of Supervisors allow the budget to be raised to $152,380,000. This amount comes in from Cleveland Construction at $32,380,000 over the original amount of $120,000,000 that was appropriated for this project.

            Mecklenburg County Public Schools Superintendent, Paul Nichols, presented the committee with a Project Budget sheet breaking down the itemized cost for the Middle School/High School Complex. “Several items from the very beginning are unexpected. The cost per square foot of building has gone up significantly, we didn’t know how to expect that. You can see that the cost of the building is right at $360 a square foot. When we first started with the program it was right at $280 per square foot so that’s been the biggest piece for the construction that has gone up significantly.” explained Mr. Nichols. He then asked that the Board would consider having a special meeting so that they could let the low bidder know and possibly set it so that there would be a ground breaking on December 20 as a Christmas present to the whole county. Board of Supervisors member, Mr. David Brankley asked about any changes that has been made to the facility to lower that cost by $5,000,000 to which Mr. Nichols responded, “We are not cutting out quality or quantity of the things that are needed. That’s been one of the issues all along. What we did was go back into the original bid and we looked at items that were related to flooring, heating and air condition, and we had our maintenance department, as well as our School Board, have an opportunity to go back in and look specifically at the items. We felt like they may have added some items that were not necessary and we looked at removing those items and put it all back out to bid for every company to look at the same thing.” Mr. Brankley then asked why the construction contingency cost had gone up from four percent to five percent, which is about a 1.1 million dollar increase. “When we put out the first bid we basically were giving the contractors the opportunity to look at all of the engineering reports where we had gone in to the site and dug and board all over the place. Mr. Carter expressed some concern about having construction companies bid only looking at those board. He had specific conversations with us and  the architect before the other bid went out to change that part.” Nichols continued, “This should be a truer example with some protection for us in case they run into unexpected things.”

            Mr. Brankley explained that he had some concerns about the process after getting some feedback from the “west end of the county”. He also pointed out that coming up with the money for this project would not be easy and that if the Board was to approve the new funding request, he would want to know that there would be no surprises down the road. “Personally, if we vote this $152,000,000, this has got to be it.” said Brankley. Mr. Nichols answered “Mr. Brankley I would concur and I understand that the cost has continued to go up. A couple of specific items that I would like for you to take back to those that have been asking. There were four sites that were given to us as options to look for and when we looked at those, even after the engineers were going to be ready to give us prices, we were told that the two sites in Boydton were not options for us because a company had taken them off of the table.” He continued “There was cost to have to make purchases but that was not only a School Board decision. That was something that pretty much handed to us as an option on either side of Highway 4 and that area. There is additional cost such as a sewage line that’s going to have to be done.”  Mr. Glenn Edwards asked if the final price was a contract price or a blue sky price to which Mr. Nichols responded that it was a contracted price and also added, “I would also like to point out that when [the Board] agreed with us to the $120,000,000, the considered construction cost at that point was $101,000,000. That was what was agreed on, that was the final plans. That’s the price that the architects are building on for the nine percent fee. They’re not getting extra money because this has gone up.”

            School Board Member, Mr. Gavin Honeycutt, spoke about his confidence in the architect that was chosen to oversee the project. “I’ve had an opportunity to sit down and watch some of this with the architect and it is my belief or my opinion that we have hired one the top notch architect firms to do this and in talking with Eddie, who is one of the lead architects on this project, I believe they have done their very best to give us the best quality school and I have total faith in what they have done. I believe the School Board has done there due diligence in making sure that we get the best advice and I think it’s time that we move on.”

            The committee agreed that everything that could be done to lower the cost of the new school facility, had been done and the only option was to take the funding request to the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors to vote on. “I certainly hope that you all would consider strongly going ahead with this because it’s not going to get any better and I certainly would not like to see cuts.” said School Board Member, Lindell Palmer. The County Administrator, H. Wayne Carter, will take some time to evaluate the numbers and come up with a funding plan for the Board of Supervisors to review at their next meeting. A special meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee has been called for Tuesday, December 3 at 7 p.m. The meeting will take place in the Board of Supervisors conference room.