05/21/14 — School plans move forward

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School plans move forward

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 21, 2014 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners and the county Board of Education forged ahead Tuesday with plans to have their financing proposal for two new middle schools to be approved by the state Local Government Commission in July.

Commissioners set a public hearing on the financing plan, as required by law.

The school board, meanwhile, will hold a special meeting Thursday to select a construction manager "at risk" for the $37 million project. The meeting will be held at the schools' central office on Royall Avenue. Also on the agenda is a contract with the architectural firm of SfL+a to serve as construction administrator for the project.

SfL+a designed the new middle schools that will be built in the Grantham and Spring Creek communities.

The school board's Facilities Committee met Tuesday to review the credentials of the eight firms that responded to a request for qualifications for the construction manager at risk job. The committee narrowed the list to three that will be presented to the Board of Education on Thursday. The companies are Metcon of Pembroke/T.A. Loving of Goldsboro, New Atlantic Contracting of Winston-Salem, and Danis Building of Jacksonville, Fla., which acquired Goldsboro's R.N. Rouse in 2010.

A construction manager at risk is defined by state law as a "person, corporation, or entity that provides construction management at-risk services."

Those services are provided for a project "throughout the pre-construction and construction phases, who is licensed as a general contractor, and who guarantees the cost of the project."

The law requires that the construction manager at risk provide a performance and payment bond.

While the facilities committee was busy with its review, commissioners were scheduling a public hearing for June 3 at 9:15 a.m. on their school financing plan. The hearing will be held in their meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

Commissioner plan to use certificates of participation -- similar to a bond, but which does not require a public vote -- or a similar financing method.

Certificates of participation are not backed by the government's taxing power and are basically a mortgage on the project they are funding. The land and buildings are used as collateral. While a public vote is not required, a public hearing is.

"It is the issuance of the debt for the two new middle schools," Interim County Manager George Wood told commissioners. "You will see in there a higher number than what we have doing on the projections. The reason for that is that you want to make sure that you have got it covered. You don't have the bids yet. The schools will be getting the bids shortly.

"So the bond counsel and Davenport (the county's financial advisers) recommend the higher number. So I don't want anybody to get excited. You are only going to issue what you need. But you don't want to start a bond process and then find out that you are short."

Wood said the number is $41 million or about $5 million higher than the approximately $37 million that has been previously discussed.

School board member Eddie Radford, who chairs the facilities committee, said he was pleased with the quality of the companies that replied to the request for qualifications.

"We are trying to get something going because we want to get these schools on the way as fast as we can," Radford said. "We have worked on it quite a bit, worked on it hard, and we would just like to see it started as soon as we could.

"Ironically, we were close on all of them. What we did, we had a little scale that we looked at. We looked to see what each item was and if the company provided that item we were looking for.

"We are wanting to start as quick as we can," Radford said. "We are wanting to get these schools built. We would certainly like to get the kids into these new schools. We are really looking forward to starting them.

"We certainly appreciate everything that the commissioners have done for us even though we have not agreed with everything they have done. But it seems right now that we are not only well on our way to getting started, but being completed by the date that we are looking for."

The county hopes to open the schools in August 2015.