01/05/11 — Wayne County moves ahead with proposal for school bonds

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Wayne County moves ahead with proposal for school bonds

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 5, 2011 1:46 PM

Cautioning against adding any padding, Wayne County commissioners Tuesday morning approved the school board's application for $15 million in bonds through the federal Qualified School Construction Bonds program.

The bonds would be used for renovation, repair and construction projects at Eastern Wayne and Norwayne middle schools.

"Just to remind the board, remember it was $6 plus million for each school," County Manager Lee Smith said. "For the application purposes, we have added to a total of $15 million, which is what we qualified for, in taxable bonds which are essentially interest-free. We will pay interest, but will be reimbursed by the federal government. That saves us $750,000 to $800,000 per year.

"This will encompass replacing all of the buildings on those two properties. This includes the media center and additional classrooms at Norwayne, and media center at Eastern Wayne. All that you are doing today is allowing us to move forward on the application. There are several approval processes. You are not saying go ahead."

The application also has to be approved by the Local Government Commission, he said.

"We have to bid the thing, have bid documents and bids in hand and go back to the LGC," Smith said. "This is going to take several months."

Commissioner Andy Anderson said the bonds would save the county money in the long run. However, he said that people, including school board members, know that the financial situation is not good in the county.

Anderson said he hoped the school board knew not to add "any padding" to the project.

"They need to understand that this is not approved," he said.

Smith said he had spoken with Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor and that he and the school board understand those concerns.

In response to questioning by Chairman J.D. Evans, Smith said that tours of the two campuses are being arranged for commissioners.

"Most of you have seen the original project, but there have been some changes particularly with the addendum (from $6 million to $7.5 million per school) and I would like for you to see that and understand what that is," Smith said.

The Norwayne project includes air conditioning the gym and the demolition of a classroom building to be replaced by a new two-story building.

Also, another old building is scheduled for some retrofitting and there have been conversations about possibly demolishing it as well and replacing it with a new one.

Nan Barwick, the school system's assistant superintendent for fiscal services, has said that although some changes have been discussed, none have been made. However, such changes could be an addendum to the projects.

The Eastern Wayne project also includes demolition and construction of a two-story building for classrooms and an administration area. Other work includes air conditioning for the kitchen and gym.

The bonds have to be sold by the end of December and the county then has a three-year window in which to spend and complete the project. Failure to do so would cost the county access to the bonds.

Commissioners have voiced concerns about flooding issues at Norwayne and schools officials have said that water runoff control will be a "big piece" of the project there.

During the construction, students would be housed in new mobile units.

It was originally thought that the units would be ordered, placed at one school and then moved to the next. However, with both projects going on at the same time, more units would have to be ordered.

It has yet to be decided whether the mobile units will be purchased or rented. If they are bought, it is possible that once construction is finished, the new units would be used to replace ones in use at other schools.