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Mecklenburg education panel: Old schools need new roofs / February 28, 2018

Members of the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors have asked for bids to go out on repairing roofs at the county’s aging middle schools and high schools, which will be retired once Mecklenburg builds a new school complex for grades 6-12.

Supervisors called for the bidding process Monday during a meeting of the joint education committee, comprised of members of the board of supervisors and school board. Also in attendance at the meeting were school maintenance director Brian Dalton and superintendent of schools Paul Nichols.

County Administrator Wayne Carter said he asked for the meeting so supervisors could begin planning a path forward for the future use of the four Bluestone and Park View school buildings, each of which will be abandoned once the new secondary complex is completed. Carter said he expects students to remain in the existing buildings, all more than 60 years old, for at least three more years while construction of the new school complex is under way. Ongoing maintenance and upkeep will be needed during that period, Carter said.

Once the new high school/middle school complex opens, Nichols said the school division intends to abandon most if not all of the existing secondary facilities, returning them to the county. Carter said it will then fall to supervisors to decide whether to keep, sell or demolish the buildings.

Before then, ongoing repairs are needed to maintain the sites for the students, faculty and administration for day-to-day use.

Right now, Dalton explained, portions of the Trocal (silicone-like) membrane roofs on all four buildings have deteriorated and are causing leaks inside the schools. More than once during periods of rain, rooms inside the buildings were inundated with water, and water-logged ceiling tiles fall to the floor creating a hazard.

The problem, Dalton said, is that these “roofs have reached the end of their useful life.” Carter added that the roofs, when installed, came with a ten-year warranty, but lasted over 20. While the wear is much worse at the Park View buildings on the eastern end of the county, Dalton noted that the roofs at all four sites are showing significant deterioration.

Looking to save money, but still ensure the buildings are habitable and safe for now, Dalton suggested doing what he called a minimal amount of work on those sites that most likely will be demolished in the next three-five years. If supervisors see no future use for the middle school buildings that were constructed in the mid-1940s, his recommendation would be to power wash the roofs and coat them with a sealer to keep out water. Anything more, in Dalton’s view, would be a waste of money.

Buildings, such as the Vo-tech buildings and gymnasiums at the two high schools that were built in the 1980s, could turned into community sports centers. Already the YMCA uses the Bluestone gym, Dalton said. These sites might be served better by a more comprehensive review and upgrade, he added.

Dalton suggested conducting a thermal scan of the buildings to locate problem areas, which would then be repaired and sealed off to protect from the elements.

Committee members agreed and asked Dalton to prepare a request-for-proposal for roof repair bids for both middle schools and for the main buildings and ag facilties at the two high schools. Supervisors agreed to hold off on work to the high school gymnasiums and vo-tech buildings while they assess outside interest in keeping the structures.

The RFP will seek pricing on three options: the cost of power washing and sealing the Trocal roofs; the cost of power washing and sealing the Trocal roofs and getting a five-year warranty on the work; and the cost of power washing and sealing the Trocal roofs with a 10-year warranty.

Regardless of the cost, the county should get, at least, a five-year warranty on the roof repairs, said supervisor Andy Hargrove. “We still haven’t looked into the unforeseen. Something [catastrophic] could happen or construction could take longer than anticipated,” he said.

Committee chairman Claudia Lundy asked Dalton to make the due date for RFP responses no later than the end of March. This would enable supervisors to approve a contractor at their regular meeting in April. The work could then take place throughout the spring, summer and fall.

In other business, committee members asked Carter to seek bids for the cost of demolishing the former Buckhorn Elementary School. The county attempted to sell the building, Carter said, but no interested buyer came forward. Now nature is causing the building to deteriorate beyond repair. Demolishing the Buckhorn school now, Carter said, would help supervisors estimate the cost to demolish the two middle schools, should that be their decision.

Lundy said her preference would be to demolish, grade and seed the ground at both middle schools. Similar work, she said, should be done to the high schools’ main buildings. Lundy did not say if she favored preserving the gymnasium at either Park View or Bluestone High.

Dalton expressed an interest in keeping the Vo-tech building at either or both high schools for storage of school equipment and supplies. No decision was reached about that idea.

At the end of the discussion on existing schools, committee members voted to go into closed session to discuss real estate matters. No action was taken following the session.

closed session.

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