School Construction Contracts On Hold – Transylvania County, NC

 

Last updated 11/27/2019 at 4:22pm



Some members of the Transylvania County Board of Education expressed frustration last Thursday evening that the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners had not approved the contracts for the architects and CMAR (construction manager at risk) for the $68 million in work to be done at the Brevard High and Rosman High/Middle campuses.

At its meeting Monday, the Board of Commissioners, however, said it wants to see a soil report before proceeding.

At last week’s meeting, School Board Chair Tawny McCoy said the School Bond Construction Committee, which has two county commissioners on it, met recently.

“There was discussion around the approval of the contracts,” said McCoy.

She said school board attorney Chris Campbell has been working with the architect, Clark Nexsen, and the CMAR, Vannoy Construction, to alleviate any concerns, particularly regarding the soil conditions, in the contracts.

“So, we are working on that,” said McCoy. “We are waiting to hear back from the county attorney… Hopefully that will be moved along very soon.”

Campbell said that once the soil reports come back, it is incumbent for the architect and CMAR to meet to review those reports to see what design and budget changes will be necessary to address the soil conditions. The changes would then be reported back to the school board and county commission.


He said if that is a concern of the county, it could be specifically addressed in the contracts.

“That’s the change that I understand they’re looking for. (I’m) happy to make that change. To me that’s just specifying something,” said Campbell.

Board member Marty Griffin asked if this was a normal procedure that had been followed in Henderson and Buncombe counties.

“Is this a thing that goes on all the time?” asked Griffin. “People are getting impatient.”

Campbell said the paperwork is similar, but “I think the dollar value involved is driving a little bit of the scrutiny.”

“No, I don’t think it should take this long to get the contracts approved,” said Campbell.

Board member Courtney Domokur said it’s important to remember that Clark Nexsen is still on site working with teachers and staff and the soil reports are being done.

“Work is still being done,” she said. “We’re just waiting on a few minor changes from what I understand.”

Campbell said that other than the soil report, the county has said there are apparently just “minor changes.”

“We have to see what those minor changes are,” said Campbell.

“The county knows that work is ongoing,” said Campbell, adding that if there had been major problems with the contract, the county would have addressed them earlier.

Campbell said he doesn’t see why the contracts could not be finalized in December, “but I haven’t seen the changes yet.”

Campbell said the school board did not want to receive piecemeal changes to the contracts, but all of the changes at once.

He said a special meeting might need to be called to finalize the contracts.

“In all fairness, the architect and CMAR shouldn’t be out there working without a contract,” said Campbell.

“No, they should not,” agreed school board member Alice Wellborn.

“They’re doing it so they want these projects to get done. I see no reason why this shouldn’t be resolved in the month of December,” said Campbell.

“I don’t understand if you hold up contracts at the beginning of September for minor changes and at the end of November, we don’t even know what those minor changes are. That makes no sense to me whatsoever,” said Wellborn.

“I think their attorney is waiting on direction from them,” said Campbell. “It’s not a matter of attorneys not talking.”

McCoy said the commissioners who attended the School Bond Construction Committee said the delay was non-intentional.

Wellborn said she had no problem if the county had a few questions or wanted to make a few changes.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” said Wellborn. “I have a problem with it taking three months. That’s my problem … Three months is unacceptable.”

Commission Comments

During the Board of Commissioners regular meeting Monday, Board Chairman Mike Hawkins noted the school board’s “point of frustration” about the contracts for the architects and CMAR.


He said the county is questioning whether it is “wise” to enter the contract before the results about the soil are known.

Hawkins said the county’s attorney told him, Commissioner David Guice and County Manager Jaime Laughter that it wasn’t “prudent” to sign an agreement until the results are known, which is estimated to be about two weeks.


Assuming the results mean the project can go ahead, Hawkins said his board could hold a special meeting to approve the contracts.

Hawkins said that unlike most large school bond construction projects, the county has assigned the school board the “operational responsibility.” Counties, he said, “don’t typically do that.”

“That makes them an agent of the county,” he said. “This is important, particularly in the realm of documentation. It’s very important, as an agent, that they provide documentation…to mitigate any potential exposure issues that might come about later on, big or small, over the course of the project.”

Since the county won’t have “operational control,” Hawkins said its attorney told them, especially because of the “the size and complexity of the project…it was absolutely prudent for the county to get whatever documentation that (county) staff deems appropriate.”

The county was also, as of Monday, still waiting on some other documentation from the school system that it has requested. Hawkins advised Laughter to ask for it again.

Design Update

In regard to the actual design and construction of the buildings, Domokur wanted to make sure people understand the buildings will meet LEED standards. “We’re not spending the money for that certification.”

Norris Barger, director of business services and plant operations for the school board, as well as chair of the School Bond Construction Committee, said meetings with school staff at both Brevard and Rosman would be held in December to gather more input from the faculties.

“We certainly want their input,” said Barger.

Once their input is received, Barger said he hopes to have some sessions in January to receive public comments.

“We’re making really good progress. I’m excited about how things have come together. We still have some tweaking to do,” said Barger.

McCoy said that since the option to expand Rosman High across the road currently in front of the school is no longer available, the other option has been revised and could actually provide more space.


Barger said in the original option, much of the new high school would have been built against the bank behind the school.

“There were going to be a lot of unknowns back there to deal with,” said Barger.

The latest option calls for the new high school to be built between the main gym and what is currently the high school and the auditorium. A portion of it will wrap around behind, and attach to, the main gym.

The three-story building would not require as much site work and more money could be used for the building.

Barger said the new design will create more room for CTE classes and a possibly community health clinic that would be accessible from outside.

“It kind of helps a little bit with the traffic patterns too,” said Barger.

Barger said he has spoken with the state Department of Transportation and the school system may be able to get some funding from the NCDOT for push button signals and a crosswalk.

Barger said revisions to the construction at Rosman would not change the final expense figures.

He said the School Construction Bond Committee meetings are open to the public and two members of the Blue Devil Club voiced their concerns at a recent meeting about the planned concession stand, but those concerns, he believes, were answered.

“It’s going to be a lot better than what we have now,” said Barger of the concession stand. “It will be larger.”

Barger also presented a resolution to allow the superintendent to waive RFQ (request for qualifications) for certain professional services.

Campbell said the school board already had two policies, that in combination, would allow the superintendent to approve up to $50,000 for any contract with architects, surveyors and engineers.

This resolution would apply that ability to the bond money.

Campbell said the superintendent is still free to solicit qualifications but he is not required.

The board then unanimously approved the resolution regarding the RFQs.

 
 

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