Boards argue about school construction
BY AMELIA HARPER
Friday, December 1, 2017
After nearly two hours of cordial conversations about event and programs affecting the school district Thursday night, Nash County commissioners and the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education held a lengthy, heated discussion about the construction of the Nash-Rocky Mount Early College High School on the campus of Nash Community College.
The high school, which now meets in mobile units on the college campus, is slated to move into Building C on the college campus once the college’s new cosmetology building is completed and renovations to Building C can be accomplished. Nash County commissioners have already set aside $750,000 in funding for those renovations, Robbie Davis, chairman of the Nash County Commissioners told members of the two bodies at the joint meeting.
The issue arose when Shannon Davis, director of maintenance for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, presented architectural plans for the renovation of Building C to both bodies at the meeting. Davis said the school board would be formally submitting the plans to the N.C Department of Public Instruction for approval with the next two weeks and are hoping to receive that approval within 30 days so that the bidding process on certain aspects of the work, including the mechanical components, could begin.
However, Davis expressed surprise at the fact that the school board apparently planned to submit the plans to the state without any input or approval from county commissioners.
“When we got to the meeting tonight and saw this document, we were amazed to discover that we had been left out of the mix on this process despite the fact the work will be done on a building we own,” Robbie Davis said. “This seems to be intentional. It was our understanding that you would hire the architect you wanted, but that we would be involved in the process from that point on.”
Superintendent Dr. Shelton Jefferies pointed out that the school board had paid for the cost of the architect at price of $27,000 and had already paid for roofing repairs on the building at a cost of more than $10,000. He said he did not recall the agreement between the two boards in the same way Davis did and was only following what he perceived to be the will of the school board.
Davis said he had told the school board in the past that the county commissioners may be willing to reimburse the school board for the money spent so far on the project but hinted that offer may now be off the table.
“The way this has been done, if you need more money for this project than we have agreed on or if the costs are higher than expected, you may have to look elsewhere,” Davis said. “We feel that we should work together on the planning of this project, not because we want to control the details, but because we feel that we are in a position to help save money on the cost of the project. In the past, the school district has built buildings, such as the Rocky Mount High School, where the costs were far more than they should have been. We could almost built another school with the money that was wasted.”
School board member Evelyn Bulluck asked the chairman to clarify the level of involvement county commissioners planned to have in the process of this and any future construction efforts.
“Is it my understanding that if we ever want to get money from the county commissioners for a project we have to get approval from you for everything?” she asked “It seems as if that means the county commissioners will have the final say on everything.”
Davis replied that county commissioners had repeatedly asked the school board over a period of several months to choose representatives to meet with representatives of the Nash County commissioners to form a standing committee to discuss capital needs but had not received any response from the school board so far. Earlier in Thursday’s meeting, Davis had said he was frustrated that such a committee had not yet been formed and Wendy Wilson, chairwoman of the school board, has said the topic would be discussed at Monday’s school board meeting.
School board member Wayne Doll said the tension at Thursday’s meeting indicated that such a committee needs to be formed.
In the past, the school board has sued the county over school construction efforts. As a part of last year’s compromise regarding the potential split of the school system along county lines, the N.C. General Assembly voted on a provision in the law preventing the school board from suing the county for a period of 10 years.
As a result of the discussion, members of the Nash-Rocky Mount school board agreed that school staff members should meet with county staff members to review the plans before they are submitted to the state.