Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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ABSS has made little progress on its “Top 10” capital projects


The Alamance-Burlington school system’s new chief operations officer, Greg Hook, this week presented school board members with a “progress report” about a “Top 10” list of capital improvement projects, for which Alamance County’s commissioners allocated just over $8 million in capital reserve funding last fall.

Bottom line: no progress has been made, based on Hook’s report to the board Monday night.

Alamance County’s commissioners had asked the school board early last year to provide a list of “Top 10” unfunded capital projects and agreed to fund them last fall. That additional funding was on top of the county’s annual $3.3 million allocation to ABSS for capital repairs and improvements and was separate from the ongoing construction and expansion being funded by the $150 million bond package voters approved for the school system in November 2018.

Alamance County commissioner Bill Lashley, one of the two commissioner liaisons to the school board, attended the meeting Monday night and subsequently gave school board members some background about his board’s role last year in funding the Top 10 capital repair and improvement projects (see related story, this edition).

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Lashley recalled for the board that, earlier last year, he had discussed the school system’s “Top 10” unfunded capital repair and improvement projects with Jeremy Teetor, then-chief finance officer for ABSS, and the two reached a consensus that ABSS could draw $8 million from its “capital reserves” account and still leave a $4 million cushion in the account.

Alamance County’s commissioners later voted 5-0 in October 2022 to allocate just over $8 million from the school system’s capital reserves to pay for the “Top 10” capital projects (see accompanying chart).

[Story continues below summary chart of capital projects and status.]


DOT rejects $2.9M reimbursement for traffic projects at three schools
Dr. Todd Thorpe, then-COO for the school system, had said at the time that the state Department of Transportation would reimburse ABSS for 100 percent of the $2.9 million in costs for “traffic pattern” improvements at three elementary schools: Alexander Wilson; Altamahaw-Ossippee; and E.M. Holt.

However, Hook told the board Monday night that DOT had rejected all three requests for reimbursement. “They have a committee that meets and will review [requests for reimbursement of road improvements] all across the state,” Hook said, adding that the committee is scheduled to meet again in June to review reimbursement requests.

School board vice chairman Ryan Bowden told Hook that he had been under the impression that “there was an automatic approval” for reimbursements. Hook said that’s not the case.

Originally, the traffic project at Alexander Wilson Elementary School had been budgeted at $860,000. But the contractor who apparently submitted the low bid for that work has since come back to the ABSS administration, asking for a 12 percent ($102,000) increase in the contract (from $860 to $962,000) – even though the bid was never formally accepted, Hook said. “This board would need to reapprove [it] if you want to accept that price increase,” he added.

Meanwhile, no work has been done to install security camera systems at five middle schools – which, following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, 2022, had been designated as a high priority by both the school board and commissioner board – based on Hook’s report to the board.

“We just went out last week looking at the middle schools,” Hook said, when asked what he meant in saying that the camera systems at four of the five ABSS middle schools were “in design.”

ABSS had budgeted $500,000 in capital reserve funding to install security cameras at five middle schools: Broadview; Hawfields; Southern; Western; and Woodlawn, according to Hook’s progress report.

Hook also warned the board that the security cameras that had been previously installed in the high schools are nearing the end of their life span. “The life cycle of the camera is not permanent,” he said.

“If I could just make one suggestion [with] these capital projects, if we could start moving them a little faster,” Bowden said at the conclusion of the report. “A-year-and-a-half [later] and we still ain’t got cameras in our middle schools.”

Hook had previously served as the principal at Hawfields Middle School. He succeeded Thorpe as the school system’s COO at the beginning of this month.

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