Funding approved for school renovations

Published 8:33 am Thursday, March 26, 2020

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Following a recent public hearing to hear comments concerning a funding request by Charlotte County Public Schools (CCPS), the board of supervisors (BOS) unanimously approved the request for more than half a million dollars.

The school board requested that the FY2020 budgeted amount of $586,000 for debt service payment for the Phase II School Projects be used to complete several capital projects that are part of Phase II in the current fiscal year.

Phase II is a continuation of renovation projects at both Bacon and Phenix elementary schools.

Since funds have not been borrowed for Phase II, the debt service payments will not be expensed in FY2020.

Phase I of the school’s construction project included the addition of classrooms at Phenix Elementary and gymnasiums at both Phenix and Bacon. Phase I is estimated to cost $3.2 million. Portions of Phase I are still underway.

“I am excited to receive these funds,” CCPS Superintendent Robbie Mason said following the vote. “This will allow us to get several much-needed repairs completed this summer at Bacon District and Phenix Elementary Schools. I appreciate the willingness of the BOS to work with us on making improvements to our schools.”

According to Bret Arbogast, executive director of operations with CCPS, the funds will be used at Phenix Elementary School for window replacements, front door access, and bathroom renovations.

For Bacon Elementary School, it will include window replacements, renovation of single-unit restrooms in classrooms, ceiling and lighting upgrades, HVAC upgrades, and the installation on an exhaust fan.

During the public comment period, citizen Chrissy Martin urged the board to approve the measure.

“I ask that you vote yes on this, and I think Bacon District deserves the same as all the others,” she said.

On the other hand, Charlotte Court House resident Terry Ramsey asked the BOS to vote no.

Ramsey cited several reasons as to why he felt the BOS should have voted no such as procurement and debt service.

He said contractors can give a better price on one large contract than multiple small contracts for the same work.

“Schools have presented the $586,000 debt service as money appropriated for schools, and they are just repurposing. That is faulty logic,” Ramsey said. “Maintaining three separate elementary schools with steadily declining membership is an extravagant use of taxpayer’s money. However, if you must spend tax dollars on a foolish purpose, at least spend it in a smart way. The smart way is to contract and pay for the elementary school improvements as one coordinated project rather than piecemeal.”

Following several comments from BOS members about keeping Bacon District in mind when it came to renovations during the public hearing, Mason addressed the BOS reminding them that the school board recognizes the importance of Bacon District.

“Making necessary improvements at Bacon is and has been, a priority for our board.” he said.

Wylliesburg/Red Oak Supervisor Kay Pierantoni said after the meeting she believes the Bacon district has not been treated equally when comparing its expenditures to the other elementary schools.

“I do not believe the school board has intentionally left out Bacon,” Pierantoni said. “I was trying to say just the facts are that the bulk of what has been spent to date has been at the other two elementary schools.”

She said $3.2 million at Eureka in 2017 for what was presented as emergency repairs to HVAC and the bulk of the $3.2 million approved in 2018 was spent at Phenix —for classrooms to get the children out the trailers and their gym.

“So, the fact is little has been spent at Bacon as they only got a gym,” she said. “For this reason, and that they have a long list of needs, I believe Bacon should be getting the concentration.”

In November, Project Manager A. Hunter Wilson with OWPR, an architect and engineering firm from Blacksburg, presented a Facilities Condition Assessment Report during a joint meeting with the BOS and the school board.

The 108-page report noted a projected total cost of $3,324,975 for Phenix and $6,788,693 for Bacon.