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Repairs authorized after heat pump fails

SoVaNow.com / January 10, 2018
On Monday, Mecklenburg County supervisors agreed to spend up to $70,000 to repair a failed heat pump and broken water lines at Park View Middle School, where water lines ruptured during the recent frigid cold snap but further damage to the facility was narrowly averted.

Supervisors voted 6-1 to approve the expenditure, with Board Vice Chair Gregg Gordon voicing a vigorous dissent aimed at School Board member Wanda Bailey.

“My biggest problem is that the School Board will not vote for an architect” to plan for a new facility to replace the county’s aged middle schools and high schools, said Gordon. “It is irresponsible of that board to not start that process of planning. I am worried that planning will be rushed, and a bad decision will be made.”

Gordon blamed Bailey, chair of the School Board finance committee, for blocking progress on the county’s consolidated school and said in the meantime “it seems like every month a new issue pops up” at the school buildings now in use.

“Until they [the School Board] feel the pressure, they don’t seem to see the need to move forward with the planning process. Until the board realizes that they won’t get everything they ask for whenever they ask, I don’t see them moving forward,” said Gordon.

Other supervisors, however, accepted the need to authorize the repairs after Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols described the damage to Park View Middle during the cold snap, which forced the closure of county schools last week.

Nichols said a heat pump failed that was taking water to the PVMS cafeteria and annex that houses the sixth-grade classrooms. This caused lines in the annex to freeze and burst.

“Luckily, we discovered the problem before there was significant damage,” Nichols said.

Maintenance Supervisor Brian Dalton obtained repair estimates. “Worse case scenario, the cost of repairs is between $65,000 and $70,000,” said Nichols.

While repairs are taking place, Nichols said the sixth grade classrooms will be moved from the annex into an already-overcrowded main school building.

“I don’t want to spend money unnecessarily,” said Nichols, but even if a new school site is selected this month, “We are looking at least two to three more winters” of the students attending the current facilities.

Bottom line, he explained, repairs must be made.

When asked if there was enough money in the budget to pay for the repairs, Nichols answered no — current maintenance funds are allocated for already known issues, which do not include repairs to frozen pipes.

ED-3 supervisor Dan Tanner said he agreed with Gordon’s assessment of School Board inaction, but said “this is an emergency situation.” He then moved to approve Nichols’ request for up to $70,000. Tanner also instructed Nichols to identify every school roof that has problems because “[they] will be in worse shape when we get the buildings back.”

ED-4 supervisor Claudia Lundy, who chairs the Joint Education Committee of supervisors and trustees, said that while it may appear that members of the joint committee are taking “baby steps,” progress is being made on selecting a new school site.

She explained that engineers with Hurt & Profitt are moving forward with site evaluations for the new school.

During the portion of Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting set aside for board member comments, Chairman Glenn Barbour said he was “very frustrated with the School Board RFP situation, and this needs to happen now.” The reference is to a Request for Proposal for the School Board to hire an architect to begin planning for a new facility.

In October, when the Board of Supervisors agreed to borrow $50 million for the new school, they were told that 5 percent of the money had to be spent on the project within six months. It was suggested then by Davenport & Associates, the county’s financial consultant, that the 5 percent should go towards hiring an architect to begin the design process. So far, the School Board has refused to act on that idea.

ED-8 supervisor David Brankley used his turn during board member comments to stress the need to “make progress on schools and keep moving forward. The money that goes into repairs is money we can’t spend on new schools.”

Newly-appointed supervisor Sterling Wilkinson also weighed in on the lack of progress on new school facilities: “Even though I am new to the job, everywhere I go people are saying there needs to be progress on new schools.”



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My understanding is that the land to be purchased is owned by one of the school board members family members...isn't this a conflict of interest? I was also told that they are making a 400% profit off of this land. Our school board should be ashamed of themselves if they let these people take advantage of them like this.


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