ABSS COO outlines 5-year roadmap for school repairs

The Alamance-Burlington school system’s chief operations officer Greg Hook, who oversees school building maintenance and repairs, outlined Monday night a five-year plan for routine maintenance projects that he says will be needed in ABSS schools between 2024 and 2029.

Hook told the school board Monday night that Alamance County government officials had requested that he compile and submit the five-year “PayGo” Capital Improvement Plan the following day, on Tuesday, February 27.

Hook also paused at the outset of his presentation to clear up what he described as misinformation about why it seems to take so long to replace school roofs.  “I wanted to talk about a question I’ve been asked about in recent days,” the chief operations officer said.  Total roof replacements typically take between six and nine months to design, Hook said, and the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) takes an additional 30 to 60 days to review the plans.

“Once design is done, then our engineering design has to submit the plans to DPI for review,” Hook explained.  “I think along the way design and review has gotten intermingled, and so then people are saying it’s taking DPI 12 months, which is just not the case.  I just wanted to kind of paint a clearer picture.”

Hook also expressed appreciation that Alamance County’s commissioners had offered in September of last year to fund and oversee an assessment of all of the school system’s roofing issues and HVAC systems.  “To me, it streamlines the process because they’re aware of what we need,” he said.

“We have lots of roof projects backed up over a couple of years,” Hook explained, adding that he feels that ABSS will be in a better shape once work begins on a “Top 10” list of roofing projects that the commissioners discussed during their budget planning retreat last month.

“We need to get those projects underway so we can get those out to bid,” Hook told the school board.  “[The] roofs we are working with now are beyond 30 years old.”

The five-year “PayGo” plan that Hook presented Monday night consists of ongoing repairs and maintenance, as well as replacements for activity buses and maintenance vehicles that aren’t funded by the state.

“I’ve been on a learning tour this first year” as COO, Hook told the board.  “Things that I’ve found, I’ve put them on here.” He listed all of the categories of routine repairs for each year of his five-year plan, and mapped out a list of projects needed at each school, each year, Hook elaborated.

The COO acknowledged that the annual county capital funding that he estimates would be needed each year through the 2027-28 fiscal year exceeds the $3.3 million in capital funding that Alamance County’s commissioners have allocated to ABSS every year for building maintenance and repairs since 2019, the first year that followed passage of the $150 million school bond package.

“This is what I suggest that we do, but it does exceed that [$3.3 million capital allocation] in the first few years,” Hook told the board.

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The COO also presented a series of photos showing repairs that are needed due to safety hazards.  For an example, he showed a photo of outdoor bleachers at Cummings High School, which have no railings and steel footings that have rusted through and are no longer attached to the ground.

“They’re not up to code,” Hook elaborated.  Other schools have what he termed “fire panels,” which are safety appliances that alert the fire department if a fire breaks out, activate sprinklers, and perform other functions to minimize injuries and property damage.

Hook said two schools, B.E. Jordan Elementary and Woodlawn Middle, have fire panels that need to be replaced because the manufacturer, Siemens, stopped making them in 2013 and stopped making replacement parts for them in 2020.  “You can’t mix brands for parts,” he pointed out.

Routine repairs are needed throughout the system, the COO told the board, holding his hands up to illustrate how his department has a foot-high stack of work orders for window blind replacements, which he said are “running behind.”

Several schools have “rotten, rusty doors” that don’t close, he added.  “We need to be continually maintaining flooring,” the COO said, noting that schools such as Newlin Elementary and Turrentine Middle still have asbestos-based flooring materials.

“I tried to take what I thought were the most important things and spread them across five years, focusing on safety,” Hook summarized for the board.  “We need to be thoughtful about it and know when we want to approach that together with the county commissioners.”

Hook told The Alamance News during a break in Monday night’s 6½-hour meeting – two hours of which the school board spent in closed session with their attorney – that he’d spent the first year of his tenure as COO, which began on March 1 of last year, visiting every ABSS facility and documenting repairs that he says are needed.  While inventorying ABSS facility issues, he also documented structural features that don’t comply with current building codes and/or state and federal regulations surrounding such things as handicap-access but were nonetheless compliant at the time the facilities were built, Hook told the newspaper.

Hook said he’d used round “budget numbers” that reflected the amount that had been bid for similar projects but rounded up to account for inflation in materials and labor.

The full five-year capital improvement plan can be viewed online here:
https://simbli.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=10&AID=386496&MID=15148