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Mecklenburg trustees reject request to hire architect

SoVaNow.com / November 15, 2017
A majority of Mecklenburg County school board members rejected a request to hire an architect to design the new consolidated high/middle school complex during the trustees’ Nov. 2 meeting.

The motion to authorize staff to draft an RFP for an architect was advanced by Dale Sturdifen at a special called meeting of the board.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols, when asked by trustee Wanda Bailey, said his preference was to move forward with the RFP despite there being no resolution on the ultimate site of the new school.

Voting in favor of the motion were Dora Garner, Sturdifen, Kenny Johnson and Glenn Edwards. Opposed were Bailey, Lindell Palmer, Rob Campbell, Gavin Honeycutt and trustees chairman Brent Richey.

This was the second time a trustee has sought approval to authorize staff to develop a proposal for the architect. The first attempt was by Edwards, but the meeting at which the matter would have been discussed was cancelled.

Both Sturdifen and Edwards said they were reacting to a suggestion from R.T. Taylor with Davenport & Company, the county’s financial consultant. Taylor told supervisors in October, when they approved plans to borrow up to $50 million for a consolidated high school/middle school complex, that the borrowing came with two caveats. The county has six months to commit at least 10 percent of funding toward the project, and the county must have a reasonable expectation of spending the full $50 million within three years of taking out the loan.

Taylor explained one way to meet the county’s initial obligation was to move forward with plans to hire an architect by issuing an RFP. Supervisors referred that suggestion to the School Board since they are responsible for overseeing the design and construction of the schools.

In the past, more than one trustee has expressed reluctance to hire an architect until the site selection process has been completed. The reasons given are:

» Supervisors might then force the School Board to accept the former prison site in Boydton as the location for the schools;

» it is too soon to hire an architect; and

» hiring an architect is easy, it can be done quickly.

The Planning Commission, at its meeting in October, put an end to any debate that a school facility would be situated on the property that once housed the state’s shuttered prison in Boydton, Mecklenburg Correctional Center. At that meeting, the Commission recommended rezoning the property from agriculture to M-1. County Administrator Wayne Carter confirmed that schools cannot be built in an M-1 zone.

Speaking Monday, supervisor Claudia Lundy, who heads the joint education committee— the body charged with site selection — acknowledged the group is still waiting on final site recommendations from their consulting engineers. She said the engineers’ work is cumbersome as every location under consideration must be tested to see if it percs (absorbs water), and for the slope and grade, among other things. Each of these factors will be used to measure the suitability of the site.

She said she hopes to have those reports and to make a final decision by Thanksgiving.

There are six sites in contention, Lundy said, but she would not say where they are located.

In other business, trustees moved forward with plans to develop a winter track program for both Bluestone and Park View high schools. Voting to allow winter track were trustees Garner, Edwards, Sturdifen, Johnson and Palmer and Richey. Bailey and Honeycutt were opposed, and Campbell abstained.

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