The Transylvania Times -

Errors Mean $450,000 More For Project - Brevard NC


Last updated 7/12/2018 at 9:02am

Transylvania County commissioners Tuesday approved $450,000 more in funding for the Ecusta Road industrial building project because of “design team errors and omissions on the project.”

Commissioners had initially approved a project budget of roughly $4.7 million, including 10 percent in contingency funding, to build the 60,000-square-foot building, which will partly house SylvanSport.

The project budget amount includes $3,718,300 million from the county and $1 million in grant funds from the Golden LEAF Foundation.

The extra $450,000 will come from the county’s fund balance reserve for economic development, but commissioners want the Transylvania Economic Alliance, which is partnering with the county and the City of Brevard on the project, to look at ways to recoup the money.

The building’s design, according to a memo from County Manager Jaime Laughter, was finished via a contract between WHN Architects and the Alliance.

Harper Construction was contracted to construct the building. Issues with the site were noted in 2016, when the Alliance had the soil analyzed.

It showed a shallow water table and unsuitable soils for construction. It was recommended as a minimum to bring in several feet of suitable fill dirt to support the building.

In the fall of 2017, according to Laughter, WHN prepared bid documents and plans that didn’t include soil remediation and indicated it was a “balanced site,” although the documentation included the soil concerns that were previously raised by the Alliance.

A “balanced site” means being able to take soil from one area on a site and using it in another area on the same site.

Since building has begun, Harper Construction has had to issue change orders because of the load testing, which guarantees a structure’s stability and reliability.

The change orders, Laughter said, are outpacing the 10 percent contingency funding built into the project’s funding.

Laughter noted that typically new construction includes 5 percent for contingency but that 10 percent was recommended because of the soil concerns.

Contingency funding is meant to deal with unforeseen issues arising during a project.

In a June 14 conference call with the project team, Laughter said, WHN “acknowledged responsibility for bidding the project as a balanced site and indicated that there was concern the additional cost would be a problem for the project and that the engineer had increased thickness of concrete and pavement in order to attempt to compensate for the soil issues.”

“Management analysis of all change orders on this project indicate that $851,380 is directly related to design team errors and omissions on this project, with all, except $12,424.50, being related to unsuitable soils directly that was not accounted for in either design or within the project budget,” Laughter said. “While bidding the project with remediation would have cost more than the bid amount approved, a proper bid document and plan specs would have cost less by addressing these issues up front and would have given an accurate project cost for consideration by the Board of Commissioners before moving forward with the project, particularly because it changes the assumptions of the return on investment analysis.

“This issue has caused delays on the project already, so staff is requesting the funding so that the project can move forward to completion with the expectation that appropriate accountability for the errors and omissions be pursued, so that funds are recouped.”

Prior to voting to approve the extra funding, Commission Chairman Larry Chapman asked how “did this fall through the cracks?”

He asked if there were any liability or insurance issues at play. He said he has a “problem” with the county being labeled as responsible.

Laughter said that architects and engineers “are human” and “do make mistakes.”

She said the state does require insurance on building designs because issues do arise, so there is a chance to “recoup” funding.

In the Ecusta Road case, WHN has a contract with the Alliance, which will have the responsibility of pursuing such a matter, Laughter said, noting the architect and engineer have acknowledged making a mistake.

She said Josh Hallingse, the Alliance’s executive director, did ask that, based on the soil report, the design take into account that the building can be load bearing, which typically means using concrete, block or brick, and that areas on the site can be load bearing.

The architects’ reaction, Laughter said, was that they thought it could be handled with the designs as initially presented.

There is a three-year statue of limitations process for the Alliance and design team to work out the issues on recouping compensation, Laugher said, and based on meetings, so far, it should be an “agreeable negotiation.”

Commissioner Page Lemel said it was “stunning,” referencing the report that says the “majority” of the soils sampled were “challenging or not suitable” for reusing to support the building or pavement. The report went on to say that the contractor would be expected to bring in “the majority of the fill” for the site.

“This begs the question,” Lemel said, “Who can’t read?”

In other action:

•During public comments, Lee McMinn asked about the schools’ capital budget requests, including the “$490,000,” he said, the school board wanted for pre-planning for the upcoming $68 million bond to make improvements at Brevard and Rosman high schools and Rosman Middle School.

He said the county did similar preplanning for the new courthouse.

The school system needs the same “attention,” he said.

He said the preplanning includes identifying the scope of work, drawings, and a course on public education on why it’s needed and what is going to be done.

McMinn asked for a majority of commissioners to agree to fund the pre-planning out of the county’s fund balance, which, he said, is more than is recommended by the N.C. Association of County Commissioners (NCACC).

He also asked the county to provide $2.9 million now to make improvements to heating and cooling systems at three schools before the bond.

He said the county has the money in its fund balance and needs to stop deferring the improve-ments.

McMinn went on to note that the Board of Commissioners cannot legally, as a public body, take a position on the bond, but he asked that each individual commissioner state their position and explain why.

During commissioner comments at the end of the meeting, Commissioner Kelvin Philips, in response to McMinn’s request for each commissioner to give their position, said it was a “disrespectful and unreasonable request.”

“Our right as an individual citizen, how we vote is protected,” he said. “And that’s not saying I’m for or against.”

Lemel also referenced some of McMinn’s comments. She said that on June 28 she sent questions to the school board, specifically concerning the pre-planning.

She said that on Jan. 11, 2018, the school system received a letter from its architect, Clark Nexsen, outlining “a package of advanced preparation services for $375,000.”

She said commissioners discussed helping to pay for those services, with the “caveat that (the county) wanted to be able to negotiate a fee with the architect.”

She said that it can be “scary when you get into a large project and if you don’t have a fixed fee, things can get out of control pretty quickly.”

According to the school board minutes, on Jan. 16, Lemel said, the school board approved a contract with the architect for $375,000 for work involving Brevard and Rosman high schools and Rosman Middle School.

She said there was also a Jan. 16 letter from a land surveyor sent to the school system citing scope of work that would cost $84,500, bringing the total amount of advanced planning to $459,500.

The letter was shared, Lemel said, during a joint two-on-two meeting between the school board and commissioners, plus various staff members, on Jan. 26.

“When we offered to negotiate the fixed fee on the architect’s contract, we were told, ‘no, thank you,’” she said. “Therefore, we did not pursue paying for the advanced work because there was no interest in negotiating the fixed fee.”

According to the March 19 school board minutes, Lemel said, there is a reference of “only $374,500” being paid for the advance planning. She said that “anecdotally” during the same meeting there was also discussion of $450,000.

She said that during that meeting School Board Chair Tawny McCoy and Vice Chair Ron Kiviniemi reported that the school board and commission staffs discussed potential funding assistance from the county to pay the $450,000.

The money was “not forthcoming,” Lemel said, because again there was no option to negotiate the architect’s fee.

She said the school board, according to the meeting minutes, voted unanimously to amend its advanced planning contract with the architect to pay $129,500 for phase one (ending June 30); and $245,000 for phase two (beginning July 1). Adding in the proposed land surveying costs of $84,500, the total would be $459,500.

Lemel also referenced a June 21 story in The Transylvania Times that said the school board had earlier this year agreed to pay Clark Nexsen $495,000 for the advanced planning.

Lemel said this is not recorded in the school board’s minutes and she asked when did this discussion happen.

The article goes on to report, she said, that “the school board decided to defray $214,000 in current capital needs and shift that money to pay for Clark Nexsen’s work through June 30, the end of this fiscal year.”

Lemel said in the school board’s March 19 meeting minutes the board only voted on $129,500 to be spent in the previous fiscal year.

Additionally, again referencing the article, “The school system then requested that $276, 000 be included in the local FY19 budget to pay Clark Nexsen for the remainder of work to be done after June 30.”

Lemel said she is “very confused” about the differing amounts and she is still waiting on answers from the school board concerning her questions.

She agreed that the county is at a “critical junction” with the schools and that there are “substantial capital needs,” but she doesn’t “know why the amounts keep shifting.”

“I am in this office because I believe I am serving our community, and I believe I am working hard for this and I believe in creating the best community we can possibly have and that includes having exceptional schools, exceptional care for our citizens,” she said.

The county has asked the school system, Lemel said, to have joint meetings to avoid “talking to one another through media coverage” and the county has contacted a School of Government staff member who specializes in school and county funding relationships.

The county, she said, is waiting for confirmation from the school board for the meeting.

She said commissioners “believe in working together,” and she pledged to try and advance the county’s relationship with the school system and to be “open and transparent.”

Also during public comment, Brevard High School student Hannah Lance talked about her upcoming role attending the YouthVoice 2018 summit, which will be held during the 111th N.C. Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) Annual Conference Aug. 23-25 in Catawba County.

Sherwin Shook addressed commissioners and said he owns land adjacent to the proposed Brevard Police Department shooting range near the city’s water treatment plant on Cathey’s Creek.

He said he understood the shooting range is out of the county’s jurisdiction but asked if there was anything the county could do.

He said the range would hurt his property values, as well as voicing safety concerns.

Chapman reiterated that range is not within the county’s jurisdiction but he understood Shook’s concerns.

•Commissioners app-roved holding a public hearing on July 23 on the proposed $68 school bond referendum.

•Commissioners app-roved holding a public hearing on July 23 on proposed changes to the county’s Mountain Ridge Protection Ordinance, which was initially approved in 1983 and has not been reviewed or updated until recently.

The county’s Planning Board and Planning Department staff have been reviewing the ordinance. The board is recommending the proposed changes to the ordinance, the main purpose of which is to protect the county’s scenic beauty and to ensure that construction on mountain ridges is safe.

Among the proposed changes are updating language and definitions to meet current state laws; updating the map to include more accurate GIS data and information that is now available; delegating the Planning Board as the final permit review body (as opposed to commiss-ioners); better defining “Dunn’s Rock;” incorporating other changes to make the ordinance easier to read and consistent with other land use related ordinances enforced by the Planning and Community Develop-ment Department.

Mark Burrows, the department’s director, noted that staff mailed notices and maps to more than 300 property owners who would be impacted by the proposed changes.

Burrows said a number of property owners called or visited his office to learn more about the changes, but no one attended the Planning Board meeting where the proposed changes were recommended to be sent to commissioners for final approval.

•Staff will come back before commissioners at a later date with proposed policies on fee waiver requests for Parks and Recreation facilities.

•Commissioners app-ointed Lemel as the board’s representative on the Social Services Board.

•Commissioners app-roved a request from Lia Castiligione to waive the rental fee at the Recreation Center. Castiligione will host a charity event to benefit a local teacher suffering from illness.

•Commissioners app-roved a proclamation naming July as Parks and Recreation Month.


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