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Halifax County supes, trustees take separate paths on high school design

SoVaNow.com / May 06, 2019



For a negotiated fee of $96,000, the Halifax County Board of Supervisors is looking to hire a Blacksburg architectural firm to provide a “second opinion” on the Halifax County School Board’s plans for a new high school.

At the same time, school officials are moving forward with the selection of a design/build partner to construct an all-new Halifax County High School facility, based on the concept put forward by Moseley Architects, which has been advising trustees on the options for high school modernization.

Both boards — school trustees and supervisors — are eyeing June as a potential turning point in the HCHS project. Supervisors have a June 28 deadline to receive the findings of OWPR, Inc., a Blacksburg-based architectural and engineering firm that members will be asked to retain when the full Board of Supervisors meets tonight in Halifax.

Meantime, the School Board may soon have a recommendation of a design/build firm to hire to oversee construction of a new HCHS facility. Trustees will be asked to select a builder at their scheduled June 10 meeting.

On Friday, the School Board central office issued a statement on the April 26 meeting of its Facility Committee, a 14-member group comprised of school and community representatives that is advising trustees on the HCHS project. The group has chosen three firms to pitch proposals for a high school when the committee holds its next meeting in late May.

The facility committee then will pick a firm to recommend to trustees, leading up to a possible June vote by the trustees on the final choice of a firm. That meeting will take place prior to the deadline for the county’s architectural firm to present its findings to supervisors.

The firms that will make presentations on a new high school design are Moseley Architects, RRMM Architects, and Grimm and Parker, all based in Virginia. Each firm has extensive experience in school construction and will partner with a general contractor to give trustees a full design/build package for construction of a new high school.

Moseley enters the competition as the School Board incumbent, but trustees chairman Joe Gasperini described all three contenders as “big name firms.”

Meantime, supervisors, moving on a separate track, will consider a recommendation tonight to hire Blacksburg-based OWPR, Inc., which has built or has under construction nine high schools in Virginia and West Virginia, according to the firm’s website.

In March, supervisors appointed a committee of Board Chairman Dennis Witt, County Administrator Scott Simpson and Building Inspector Otis Vaughan to speed up the process of choosing an architectural firm to conduct an outside review. Supervisors said they wanted to act quickly to prepare for a voter referendum in November to decide whether to enact a 1-cent local sales tax to pay for the school project.

The panel of Witt, Simpson and Vaughan selected OWPR after receiving two responses to a request-for-proposal for the architectural review.

“They [OWPR] were qualified and we felt they were a better fit for the county than the other firm,” said Simpson.

The panel and OWPR have worked out the scope and cost of a contract that awaits ratification by the full Board of Supervisors when members meet tonight in Halifax. Under the deal, OWPR will present its findings to supervisors by June 28 and charge a fixed fee of $96,000. According to the contract terms, the firm will lower that negotiated price if “it is determined that efficiencies within the scope of the work can be achieved,” according to a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU).

Under the review, OWPR will provide “a second opinion assessment” of the two basic options for HCHS put forward by Moseley: either renovate and partially rebuild the existing high school for $88 million, or construct an entirely new facility for $99 million.

Among its appointed tasks, OWPR will review Moseley’s methodology and develop an “alternative plan” for HCHS: one that will “preserve and renovate existing building assets as much as possible but still create a modern, efficient and functional high school,” according to the draft MOU.

Under the renovation concept that OWPR will be asked to explore, the firm will look at how to best re-use or upgrade existing athletic facilities, and determine “areas of strategic demolition” of the existing high school building to “improve overall functionality.”

The firm also will develop new floor plans and a rendering of the high school façade to “showcase additions and renovations” and “give the building a new modern look.”

To carry out the HCHS redesign, OWPR will make site visits to “validate assumptions made in the Moseley Report” and offer its own assessment of problem areas at the high school: with parking, sidewalks, the building’s exterior and interior surfaces, ADA compliance, HVAC systems, plumbing and electrical fixtures, and the building’s basic structural viability.

“We don’t dictate how they should go about doing their evaluation,” said Simpson of the OWPR contract, “but it does have certain milestones they will present to us in their report.”

He added, “the board [of supervisors] is responsible to the taxpayer as to the proper use of their tax money, and they want to do an independent evaluation to ensure that what they’re being asked to fund is the most appropriate use of the money.

“It’ll hopefully flesh out some of the differences between the two boards,” Simpson said.

Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg has said he hopes the county’s “second opinion” architectural assessment produces “clarity” among trustees and supervisors, but School Board chairman Gasperini said this week that supervisors “are playing catch-up to what the School Board has already done."

He noted the School Board created its facility committee two years ago, and has conducted over 45 community meetings, conducted surveys and “explained to every part of the county the state of the high school and its [poor] condition.

““The School Board is moving forward. We’re not waiting for a second opinion … The longer you wait, the more money it will cost,” Gasperini said on Wednesday.



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Comments

We can all agree that work needs to be done to the HCHS. I'm not in favor of a completely new High School costing $100 million but the Board of Supervisors are throwing away $96,000 of taxpayer monies by hiring a this firm. First and foremost, the firm only has a finished study by Moseley and not the entire background or scope of meetings with the School Board or their Facility Committee. The BOS cannot and do not have authority to override the School Board, they can only deny allocation of funding. It is the School Board's charge to set programming and maintain school buildings and to bid out new school projects. The HCHS is certainly in a state of disrepair and upkeep now. This is a dysfunctional situation between the BOS and the School Board and I hope for the sake of the community they can come together instead of this political posturing and wasteful spending that is the current trend. Taxpayers are the ones losing in this battle of the nit-wits.

Comments

I can only hope that people will have enough common sense to vote down the sales tax increase. I also hope that the BOS will withhold any funds to the school board until they say they are going to scale back the remodel and not build a new school. I have personally talked to 42 people that contacted our school board rep saying no new school. These people do not listen to the people that vote for them. Hold the line BOS!

Comments

BOS cannot withhold any funds that were provided to them from federal or state money specifically allocated for education. Now they could withhold anything beyond those allocated funds, but not money specifically given for education/schools.


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