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School system to fund clerk of works

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Former Grayson County Administrator Bill Ring was relieved of his clerk of the works duties with the school system as a way to cut expenses during the Sept. 10 board of supervisors meeting.

Four days later, Ring was appointed by the Grayson County School Board as interim clerk of the works.

Grayson County Administrator Jonathan Sweet said the county opted to "terminate services with Mr. Ring as a means of saving significant amounts of money."

According to Sweet, Ring was making $33 an hour (which includes mileage) to oversee operations at both the Grayson Highlands school project under construction in the western end of the county and the renovations and additions at Fries Middle School.

Sweet noted that Ring's paycheck was coming out of the loan the county obtained for Phase I of the schools' long-term facilities update, "meaning we were going to have to pay interest on top of every dollar we paid him for the next 20 years."

During a school board meeting Sept. 14, the board voted to appoint Ring as interim clerk of the works.

Grayson Schools Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas told The Gazette that Ring would serve while the position is advertised and filled in accordance with school system procedures.

Ring is able to reapply for the position that he took after his retirement as county administrator. He was employed through the contractors, but paid with county funds.

While the position is not required by law, Thomas said she felt that "clerk of the works services are essential to successful completion of both [school] projects."

The school system began advertising for the position this week to oversee and document work at both projects. The advertisement calls for 20 hours a week until Dec. 1, and 10 hours a week until completion at Fries Middle School.

Ring is earning $28 an hour as interim clerk of the works. Thomas said architects have told the school system that such a position ranges in pay from $24 to $65 an hour.

"The Virginia Department of Education strongly recommends that school systems in the state provide clerk of the works services for construction of school facilities," Thomas said. "It is a common practice for school systems across the state and nation to employ a clerk of the works for new construction as well as for renovation projects."

The school system will handle the advertisement and hiring for the position. The pay, however, will not come out of loan money, according to Sweet.

Grayson "will no longer be using borrowed funds to pay for such services. The contract services will now be hired by the school system and not the county, and they will be fully responsible for his/her performance."

Sweet agreed with Thomas that there is no requirement to have the positon.

However, "We could have arguably absorbed the duties and responsibilities by delegating the applicable tasks amongst the project management responsibilities of the [architects and engineers], the building official, county administration and the staff of the school board."

Sweet said the school board will instead now pay for the services with monies from the general budget allocation.

According to Sweet, Ring submitted invoices for payment for the last three months in the following amounts: May, $1,584; June, $2,904; July, $3,036.