08/12/11 — Schools project ready to start

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Schools project ready to start

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 12, 2011 1:46 PM

At a special meeting called Thursday morning, the Wayne County Board of Education approved a bid and entered into a construction and lease agreement to proceed with projects at Norwayne and Eastern Wayne middle schools.

The $14.5 million bid came from Monteith Construction, which has offices in Charlotte, Wilmington and Raleigh. Nine contractors had submitted bids, the architect said, but one had withdrawn due to a miscalculation.

Nan Barwick, assistant superintendent of finance, provided the board with a breakdown of funding. Factoring in "ancillary costs," which included bond and design fees, furniture and equipment, raised the total to $16.6 million.

She explained that $15 million of the payment for the projects would come from QSCB, Qualified School Construction Bonds Program, or stimulus dollars.

The district will also access three funding sources to assist with payment, she noted -- including $290,000 in estimated sales tax refund money, $369,900 from the board's capital funds, and $971,792 in county funds -- making up $1.6 million.

"I think that's a pretty good deal to get a $16 million project taken care of," she said.

Jack Edwards, board attorney, reviewed the board's resolution that now goes to the county commission. He said the application packet spells out the financial agreement along with the transfer of property and lease between the county and the board.

"It all goes back to the original memorandum of understanding signed by the two boards in 2007, I think it was, anticipating these two projects and outlining those procedures," he said.

According to the resolution, "to facilitate such financing, it is necessary for the board to convey ownership of the sites to the county for the term of the agreement." The document goes on to say that the county agrees to pay costs of the project and upon completion, the sites will be leased back to the board.

Proposed construction at the two middle schools has been long in coming. It was originally on the district's $22 million construction plan. In 2008, meetings between the school board and commission were held to discuss long-range planning in Phase 1 of the facilities plan.

In March of that year, the BOE approved the hiring of the architect and construction manager for the first five projects of the facilities plan. In September, commissioners appropriated $500,000 to the district so the Board of Education could proceed with preliminary engineering costs associated with the $22 million plan.

The "Memorandum of Understanding" was actually entered into in October 2008, agreeing to the capital outlay plan to construct facilities and school improvements at Brogden Primary and Eastern Wayne, Greenwood, Mount Olive and Norwayne middle schools.

Commission concern that the state could redirect lottery funds prompted the board to approve a motion in Jan. 2009 requesting $5.5 million in available lottery funds be used to complete projects at MOM, Brogden Primary and Greenwood Middle.

In the summer of 2009, the district began moving forward with the initial three construction projects. Mount Olive Middle renovations were completed that fall, Greenwood's in December and Brogden Primary, which included a "cafetorium," was finished by the summer of 2010.

Dr. Steven Taylor, schools superintendent, sent a letter to County Manager Lee Smith in September 2010, seeking application for stimulus funds through the Department of Public Instruction and the Local Government Commission for QSCB funding and lottery proceeds to complete Norwayne and Eastern Wayne projects.

During the process, it was learned that the main stipulation for receipt of the QSCB stimulus money was that the county would be required to sell taxable bonds to be paid off over a 17-year period at no cost to taxpayers. The commission voted in December to proceed with the application -- for use of $15 million on bond funding for the projects.