05/11/14 — New schools are on track for next step

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New schools are on track for next step

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 11, 2014 1:50 AM


Work could begin within months on middle schools in the Grantham and Spring Creek communities -- the first new schools to be built in Wayne County in many years.

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to a compromise with the Board of Education that will make that possible.

"I would like to say that I am pleased to see that the two boards, by unanimous votes of both boards, have agree to proceed on," Commissioner Joe Daughtery said. "We hope to begin very shortly construction and completion of the first two new schools built in our county in many, many years."

With the vote, the county has gotten five items off the school board's capital improvement plan, he said

Daughtery commended both boards, County Attorney Borden Parker, Interim County Manager George Wood, schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor and his staff for working to put the compromise together.

Parker told commissioners that he and Wood had met last Friday with Board of Education Chairman John Grantham, Taylor and board attorney Jack Edwards in an effort yo determine how both boards could move as quickly as possible on the projects.

Monday night, the school board agreed with the commissioners' recommendation on financing and construction and to proceed with the projects, he said.

"To expedite that process, they need to be named agents, your agents to proceed," Parker said. "They want to proceed with the builder (construction manager) at-risk process.

"That is not going to take a long period of time for them to do that. Then they can move on and hope everything will be in process so that we can go before the LGC (Local Government Commission) on their first meeting in July."

The financing requires Local Government Commission approval.

Operating as the agent for commissioners allows the school board to bid out and to construct the two schools so that the county is eligible to get a sales tax refund estimated at $1.2 million.

In the resolution, the school board agreed to convey the deeds for the two sites to the county since the school system is not eligible for the refunds.

It is a tactic the two boards have used in past school projects. It is also being used now for $12 million in school renovation projects.

The agreement stipulates that after the new schools are constructed and occupied by the Board of Education for the warranty period. The county would convey them back to the Board of Education at a cost of $1, unless that would endanger the financing.

However, the Board of Education would still have control of the two new school buildings while the debt service was being repaid.

Parker called it a "torturous" process to use, but that it is one that saves taxpayers money by recouping the sales tax.

The school board initially wanted to build the school under a lease agreement with developer and architect Robbie Ferris, CEO and president of SfL+a.

However, the lease would have required approval by commissioners, who said they would not grant such approval. Commissioners insisted on design/bid/build.

In the agreement worked out last week, and approved Monday night by the school board, the Board of Education agreed to use design/bid/build, but will retain Ferris.

Also as part of the agreement, the school board would commit to using $2.2 million annually from lottery and sales tax revenues to repay the financing. Commissioners would agree to pay for any amount over the $2.2 million.

The school board also would pay the operating expenses for the two new schools out of its existing budget.