Supervisors worry that bonds won't be enough for school projects.

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At a public hearing, a citizen said he is concerned that mechanical issues are not sufficiently addressed in Carroll's school renovations.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter


HILLSVILLE — While a citizen said at a Monday public hearing that he wanted the phase III school construction work to fix aging mechanical systems, one Carroll County supervisor wondered if there would be enough money to complete expansions at the high and intermediate schools.
The Carroll supervisors at their regular August meeting held a public hearing on the $14.8 million received from the Qualified School Construction Bonds, which will be used to move the sixth grade to the intermediate school and add the ninth grade to the high school in order to close Woodlawn.
Only one citizen — James Rourke from the Pipers Gap District — took the opportunity to speak at the sparsely attended county board meeting.
Rourke described himself as working in facilities management for 37 years while he lived in Florida. He worked as a supervisor and a mechanic.
“I’m concerned, and I know you all are concerned, about mechanical aspects of it…” he said in an apparent reference to aging heating and air conditioning systems and plumbing that have caused problems at the high school in particular. “I just can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get the mechanical part of this correct…
“It’s extremely important that you do this — you can have a Cadillac that’s painted and that’s beautiful, but if the engine’s not working well, you got problems.”
Rourke said he had read that some of the equipment is about 40 years old. He said his experience is that, if you can get systems to work for 30 years, you’re doing good.
But, if your equipment is 40 years old, then it’s “way overdue” for replacement.
“I think it’s just as important as aesthetics, the way the buildings look, how pretty they look,” he said. “I think the heart of it’s your equipment…”
The atrium, the planned entrance to the high school, was his second concern, Rourke said. It’s like the big glass entrance at the Mount Airy High School — there’s a maintenance challenge of cleaning it. Rourke also felt it’s important to have an overhang at the entrance to keep the rain and the wind out of the building.
It would also be nice for the students to have protection outside on bad weather days, he added. He didn’t see it in the drawing.
After the public hearing, Supervisor David Hutchins wondered if County Administrator Gary Larrowe could walk through the numbers of what has been paid to the bond counsel and upcoming expenses, so county officials would know what’s left to work with.
The bonds amounted to a little more than $14.8 million and some change, after bond sale fees, county officials agreed.
After deducting architectural and engineering and other fees, that leaves a little less than $12.5 million to spend on the phase III construction work, Larrowe said. The bond counsel fees of $25,000 were paid for separately by Carroll County.
“And there’s nothing else that may pop up?” Supervisor Andy Jackson asked.
“We don’t know of anything else, not at this time,” School Superintendent Greg Smith answered from the audience.
Hutchins asked about the architect’s inspection fee and whether it was included in these numbers. Smith said it was included.
“Are we going to be able to do the project, you think?” Supervisor Sam Dickson asked.
The work to go out to bid may be completed by next week, Smith answered. “I’ve been assured that it’s just about ready to go.”
“If there’s not enough funds left to do it, what’s the plan?” Supervisor Andy Jackson asked.
“Well, we’ll redesign the redesign,” the superintendent answered.
Hutchins noted that the supervisors wanted to see the cost of the glass entryway, compared to the cost of a regular brick-and-mortar front. Smith promised to get those figures from the architects Tuesday.
After few moments of silence, Hutchins made a motion to approve the receipt of the school construction bonds, as well as an appropriation of $850,000 to reimburse Carroll County for a previous payment to the architects and to appropriate $862,168 to Pinnacle Architect for fees and invoices through May.
When the time came to vote, after a second by Supervisor Manus McMillian, Jackson voted no. The rest of the supervisors voted yes.
Jackson explained his no vote: “At this time, I don’t feel comfortable with the unknown popping up. I hope everybody understands, I had to do what my conscience and what my constituents put on me.”