02/08/11 — Board: No change to school facilities blueprint

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Board: No change to school facilities blueprint

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 8, 2011 1:46 PM

The Board of Education is committed to moving forward with its facilities plans for Norwayne and Eastern Wayne middle schools, which call for an improved storm drainage system.

Commissioners last week expressed concern about drainage issues at Eastern Wayne, suggesting it might be more efficient to scrap the plan and consolidate campuses with Greenwood Middle School. Commissioner Jack Best said he had doubts about the proposed plan's feasibility at the school, especially whenever there are torrential rainstorms.

During a meeting with the facilities committee, Dr. Steve Taylor, schools superintendent, said there have been water issues but none that warranted the closing of the school. He added that the architect for the project had assured district officials that the updated plan will work.

"They have actually done tests on the soil, to see that it will percolate at a rate to take the storm drainage," board member John Grantham said Monday night. "They have done tests on this site and it seems very conducive to this system."

According to a report released from the design firm on the project, CLH Design of Cary, their approach is not unique to the eastern part of the state, where the topography is flatter and the soils more amenable. Similar installations are also being installed by that company at UNC-Pembroke and the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, it said.

"The system at EWMS has been designed to convey the 10-year design storm (5.4 inches in 24 hours with an instantaneous peak rainfall of more than seven inches an hour) from the courtyard area to the infiltration area," the report said.

Further, it said that the infiltration system is designed with an overflow relief, lower in elevation, so the water would not back up and would include a filter chamber at its inlet that will require regular, simple maintenance.

Board member Chris West expressed support for the engineer and architect, trusting their expertise to make sound decisions and move forward with the project.

"There's been considerable comments about our facilities plan, most of it directed at Eastern Wayne Middle," said board member Arnold Flowers. "I stand with the board. They have certainly done due diligence on this site, as far as it being a good site.

"Dr. Taylor didn't realize it but in conversation he made a really good point -- in that the school's been there 50 to 60 years, and I will add my comments, nobody's drowned out there yet and that's without a drainage system."

Flowers said he has had conversations with commissioners and City Council members, hinting at abandoning the site and building a new school.

"In round numbers, we would be talking about spending $20 million to build a new school -- there's about a $12 million difference in that," he said. "It was suggested to me that that might be funded by the commissioners."

Were there to be $10 or $12 million in "unencumbered, undesignated funds," Flowers said he would "love to see" the commissioners pick up the tab for a new school.

As a former commissioner, he said he appreciates the budgetary issues before the commission. But talk of the commission putting funds toward a new shell building, or a new jail or social services office, by contrast, might not be as popular with the public.

"I think I have a feel for the people in the district I represent, District 5, which is also shared by Commissioner Bud Gray," he said. "The people in our district would rather see us build a new school ... rather than a shell building."

That's likely true for the public at large, he added. If given the choice, most people would probably prefer to see a new school than a jail, and the move would be a better investment in recruiting new industry, he said.

"I suggest that the people of Wayne County would rather see us spend money on our children than a jail and maybe we could keep our children out of jail," he said. "Maybe if we could do a better job on our children, maybe they wouldn't need social services."

Flowers also said that he is bothered by the perception that there is an "argumentative" tone between the area's three governing boards -- City Council, commission and school board.

"That is not the case with me -- and I don't believe it is with anyone on this board," he said. "It's just that we have a passion about what we do. (And) I do have a passion about our kids."