08/13/13 — School district to hire its own architect

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School district to hire its own architect

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 13, 2013 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Board of Education wants to secure its own architect for the proposed facilities projects, including a new Grantham Middle School and renovations at several others.

The school board voted Monday night to begin the process of selecting an architect, "so when we get the funds we will be able to break ground," Board Chairman John P. Grantham said.

The motion passed unanimously, with little discussion.

It comes on the heels of the joint meeting with the county commission July 30 during which the only decision reached about facilities was to hold a follow-up meeting Oct. 8.

At its July 1 meeting, the school board expressed interest in having a joint meeting with the county commission "as soon as possible" to discuss some of the issues at hand, particularly school projects.

In June, a request had been submitted to the commission to consider funding 50 percent of the district's next three projects, which include construction of additional classrooms at Charles B. Aycock High School and Spring Creek Elementary schools as well as projects in the central attendance area, and pursue a loan option to build the new Grantham School.

The board expressed confidence in its own ability to fund some of the projects, through the half-cent sales tax fund and shared payment by the commission. By drawing down funds in the account as well as lottery funds, members said the time was right to move forward on some of the district needs.

Instead, the commission put forth its own version of a plan and an architect's rendering based on a prototype of a school in Johnston County.

The tactics came under fire during the five-hour retreat, especially after a portion was devoted to a presentation from an architect hired by the commission, discussing concept plans for the new middle school and renovations at several other schools.

While no action was taken on any of the projects, the school board maintained its confidence its own facilities plan.

Commissioner John Bell expressed a need for further study of the financial picture, suggesting representatives from both the county and the school district's financial departments meet with Davenport and Associates, the consulting firm that works with the county in financial planning. To provide optimum time to get a better handle on the needs and possible options, Oct. 8 was set as a target date to reconvene the two boards.

Grantham said he put forth the latest motion in hopes of having the architect secured in time for that meeting.

Board member Rick Pridgen asked if the responsibility to elicit candidates would fall to the facilities committee.

"(We'd) probably have the facilities committee arrange the architect come in and make a presentation," Grantham said. "It's a pretty big thing to handle by this committee."

They would, however, play a big role in the process, he said, explaining that the full board would likely be in on the discussion of selecting at least three candidates to prepare a presentation.

The only other question, and subsequent comment, was voiced by board member Arnold Flowers.

He asked if the architect's role would be limited to the projects at CBA and Spring Creek.

Grantham said it would also include a "middle school prototype for Grantham and Spring Creek" middle schools.

Flowers said during board comment that he had enjoyed the recent joint meeting with the commission.

"I really think that a fun time was had by all," he said.

The former commissioner said in his life experience, he had discovered that there are two types of people.

"There are people that are doers and there are people that are watchers. And I believe that this board of commissioners and this Board of Education, that we're doers," Flowers said. "I really feel good that this board is trying to make something happen as far as the facilities."

Flowers added that he believed both boards were willing to "stay at the table" and fulfill their roles.

"I don't know how it's going to turn out," he said. "We might not get all that we want. But I think we'll get something."