That message was, “We want to be informed of what is going on during construction, and an explanation will be required when you ask to go over-budget!”
It was sent after two representatives of the Raleigh firm Moseley Architects came before the board to present requests for change orders, when three school board members and Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dr. George Norris each delivered stern warnings to the firm.
First, Moseley Architects Construction Administrator Steve McNally presented a change order for the school’s water line on Airport Road, explaining the position of the water line was further under Airport Road than originally thought and required approval from a pair of state agencies.
The cost to the school system totaled $27,799, but said some credits may be applied for unnecessary work that was done on the original line.
This amount was not figured into the cost of the change order, however.
“I think we can (suppress) the cost, but it’s a matter of trying to stay with the contractor and keep him on schedule,” McNally said, before the floodgates opened.
“As I understand it, that work has already been done today,” School Board Vice Chair Tom McInnis addressed McNally. “Can you kind of give us a synopsis of how that happened, because according to my information we haven’t approved that.”
McNally and another representative went into a detailed description of their battles with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Transportation for approval, which in total took more than 90 days.
McNally said that when the approval did arrive, the sub-contractor on the project went ahead and installed the line without board approval.
“I think possibly there was some kind of miscommunication between their second and third tier sub-contractors, and the work was done, possibly because they thought the DENR approval was the final approval,” he said.
McInnis pointed out the inefficiency of many Raleigh bureaucracies, and said there may have been some sort of arm-twisting someone on the school board could have done to get approval.
“We all have friends on both sides of the aisle in Raleigh, and we do carry the weight of being elected officials,” McInnis suggested.
“I don’t believe it was a malicious act on the part of the contractor,” McNally explained. “... I believe this is something the contractor did in good faith.”
“It’s kind of distressing to know that you’ve been working on this for 90 days, and you don’t let us know when we might could’ve done something to move this along,” Board Member Wiley Mabe said.
Norris then explained the process of getting approval from the board.
“Getting board approval on a change order is something I’m not going to take for granted,” he said. “I think the contractor should know these are not shoo-ins. I have to get four people to agree to this, and I try to get seven. Before they do anything that will cost us more money than our budget, they need to get board approval.”
Board member Ed Ormsby echoed the sentiments of others on the board.
“In the future, if there’s going to be a change that will cost more for the school system and our superintendent and assistant superintendent don’t know about, I believe you may find some reluctance from them to get approval,” he said.
The discussion then transition to another change order concerning cable trays, for more than $15,000.
“Right here in my packet on a document with your letterhead, it says the contractor would award us some credits for these trays,” McInnis said. “But I have not been able to find them.”
McNally perused his own packet for about 30 seconds before speaking, then explained some of the charts had additional amounts, but less than what was added.
“I would, personally and as a board member, if we’re going to have this type of thing, I’d rather see the dollar amount rather than this type of computation,” McInnis said. “... If I’m going to hear bad news, I’d rather hear it quicker.”
McInnis also explained the board has the ability to call meetings in between its regular meetings if there are urgent matters on the construction site, pointing out grumbling heard on the construction site about work being held up for change orders.
“That’s just the talk in the grocery store, so to speak,” McInnis said.
“When you’re on the site, and your speaking to them directly, they know they have the ear of the board of education,” McNally replied. “Some contractors are more likely to tell you something is an emergency ... I’m just saying be careful what you hear in the grocery store.”
McInnis entered a motion the change orders be tabled while the board went into closed session to discuss them, then the board stayed behind closed doors for approximately an hour and a half before re-emerging.
After closed session, a motion was entered by Board Member Bruce Stanback to accept the change order concerning cable trays, seconded by Mabe and the motion passed unanimously.
Concerning the water line change order, McInnis entered a motion the board table the matter until a final cost total, including credits, be submitted, at a cost not to exceed $27,799,
The motion passed unanimously.
Finally, Board Attorney George Crump addressed the board concerning imminent domain rights to property on either side of the road, in order to add turning lanes to Chalk Road in front of the school.
“I just want to make it known that the Richmond County Board of Education will not take anyone’s property except for if they are compensated with the fair market value, and we will only do that when all negotiations have failed,” Crump said, recommending the board evoke its imminent domain rights.
A motion was entered, and McInnis addressed the matter before the vote.
“... We’re talking about a piece of a ditch in someone’s yard, we’re not talking about taking anyone’s home,” he said, explaining the move should increase the value of the homes.
The motion passed unanimously.
In other business:
n RCS received a conditional use permit from the City of Rockingham Board of Adjustment to relocate the RCS Maintenance Department to the site of Roberdel Children’s Center.
The move is set to take place before the beginning of next year, when those students will attend school at Cordova Elementary School.
n The board was presented with plans to retrofit lighting systems at Ellerbe Middle and Rohanen Middle.
A pre-bid meeting and job site walk-through is scheduled for November 12 at 2 p.m. at the RCS Maintenance Office in Rockingham.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at email@example.com.