Local Government Commission OKs plans, budgets for two new schools
By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 6, 2014 1:50 AM
News-Argus file photo
Wayne County will build a new Spring Creek Middle School on a 35.45-acre parcel of land on the east side of N.C. 111 South at Park Road just north of Spring Creek High School. The new Grantham Middle School will be built on U.S. 13 just west of the existing school.
The Local Government Commission Tuesday afternoon approved Wayne County's $38.6 million financing package for two new middle schools in the Grantham and Spring Creek communities, clearing the way for construction to start almost immediately.
"We had to have LGC approval to start," County Manager George Wood said. "Now that we have that, we know that the financing is coming, and the schools have their portion of the funding already in place. I would say (the start) would be right away."
As it stands now the county would finance $38.6 million of the $46.9 million project cost. The Board of Education would provide $6.66 million.
But first Wayne County commissioners want another meeting with the Board of Education to discuss cutting an additional $600,000 from the project.
Wood said he and his staff are setting up a meeting with school officials about cutting Terrazzo floors and solar trees from the project.
During the commission's most recent meeting, Commissioner Joe Daughtery questioned the Terrazzo floors, which would cost $450,000 than more traditional flooring, and two structures to show off that the school has solar panels, which would add another $150,000.
He called the structures a "little extravagant," adding that a "nice sign or plaque" would do the same thing.
"Once we discuss that, we can adjust the (loan) number down," Wood said. "Right now $38.6 (million) is what we will borrow. Depending on what the outcome of that meeting is, we can adjust that number down. It won't go up, but we might adjust it down."
Once that is completed, the information will be forwarded to Davenport and Co., the county's financial consultant, who will work with the LGC to prepare all of the documents.
"The (loan) closing is tentatively on the 16th (of July)," Wood said. "Once you get LGC approval, you are ready to go. This is a negotiated bid. We didn't go out for bids. It is a negotiated sell, which is why it happened so quickly."
Commissioners also voiced concerns that the LGC might delay a decision because a permit for the new Spring Creek Middle School had not yet been completed.
The concern was that the LGC had tentatively put the financing package on its agenda even though some information was incomplete.
"The normal process is that you have got to have permits to construct and everything in place," Wood said. "They want to see them. The architect didn't have one of them for one of the schools."
That's because it is the state Department of Insurance, specifically the fire marshal's office, which is charged with reviewing such projects because they include large assembly areas, which require more rules .
Wood said the LGC was concerned about the missing permit, but he added that since the two schools are identical, it is unlikely anything would come up in the other permit inspection that would increase the costs of construction of the other school.
Grantham Middle School plans were approved with some changes, Wood said.
The architect incorporated those changes for both schools into his plans, which were then bid out, he said.
The Local Government Commission's concern involves making sure the county has enough money to cover the costs of construction for both schools, which is why the commission wants to make sure that there are no surprises that might increase that burden, Wood said.
Also during the meeting Daughtery said it was his understanding that some $2.3 million in school board purchases, such as signs, casegoods and kitchen equipment, would not be eligible for a sales tax refund.
That is correct, unless the county tried to "run them through" the county, Wood said.
Daughtery said he had calculated that could save more than $100,000 in sales tax.
"We would certainly like to do that as long as the attorneys tell us we can do that," Wood said. "I think we should do that and then let (the school board) reimburse us."
The county already expects to recoup about $1.2 million in sales tax from the school construction project.
The school system, unlike the county, cannot be reimbursed for the sales tax. To get around that limitation, the school board has deeded the two school properties to the county.
The county will lease the new schools back to the county and eventually deed the properties back to the school board.