Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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ACC to ask county for extra $3.1M to cover cost overruns – so far – for first two bond projects

Additions tally to 8 to 15 percent more than voters approved in 2018

Alamance Community College officials said this week that they will ask Alamance County’s commissioners next week to provide an additional $3.1 million to cover cost overruns for ACC’s first two construction projects which were supposed to be financed by the $39.6 million bond referendum that voters approved in 2018.

Supply chain disruptions and labor shortages that are affecting construction projects nationwide are also driving up the bids for the forthcoming Biotechnology Center of Excellence and the student services center, according to ACC associate vice president for administrative services Tom Hartman.

ACC’s trustees initially floated the possibility of asking the county for additional funding for the two bond projects during their June meeting, after learning that the bids for site work, steel, concrete, and mechanical work for the Biotechnology Center of Excellence, which now includes a parking expansion, had come in at an average of 15 percent over the original estimated cost for construction.

Hartman told the trustees’ building and grounds committee Monday afternoon that ACC had received eight bids for the construction of the student services center, and all eight had come in over the original $6.2 million construction budget. The apparent low bidder was over budget by $503,500, he said, though he didn’t specify which firm had submitted the lowest bid. “It was better than we thought it was going to be,” Hartman told the committee.

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“There’s really nothing to cut [from the project scope,” he said in outlining to the committee why ACC intends to ask the county for additional funding.

During a brief discussion with ACC’s full trustee board Monday night, Hartman said the additional funding would “provide the taxpayers what they voted for, especially in this time of higher costs for building materials.”

“We want to make sure we get enough in so we don’t have to keep coming back [to the commissioners],” ACC president Dr. Algie Gatewood said Monday afternoon, telling the committee that while the college could manage the cost overruns with $2.5 million, he would prefer to request the $3.1 million to avoid having to ask the commissioners for more money later.

If Alamance County’s commissioners approve ACC’s request for additional funding, the budget for the center of excellence/parking expansion would be increased from $17.6 million to approximately $19.5 million. The budget for the student services center would be increased from $6.2 million to $7.2 million, based on the latest budget estimates developed by ACC’s administration.

Alamance County budget and management director Andrea Rollins participated in the building and grounds committee meeting, as well, and asked Hartman to send her “firm information” about the additional funding that ACC is seeking in order to get it added to the agenda for the commissioners’ upcoming meeting Monday night. “Our agenda for [next week] is finalized on Wednesday, so we would ask for firm information for that,” she explained during the committee meeting, which was held via the Zoom online teleconferencing platform.

Alamance County’s commissioners would need to approve two budget amendments to provide ACC with the additional $3.1 million, which would be funded by additional bond debt, based on information that was provided for a separate discussion among members of a joint technical review committee that’s overseeing ACC’s bond projects, as well as the projects in the $150 million bond package for the local school system, and the county’s own capital needs. (The technical review committee includes county government officials, as well as ACC and ABSS officials, Hartman told the full board of trustees Monday night.)

The center of excellence and parking expansion were originally conceived as two separate projects in the $39.6 million bond package that voters approved for ACC in November 2018.

ACC’s trustees, however, voted a year later to combine the $9.1 million center of excellence and the $8.5 million free-standing parking deck into one project that would have a total budget of $17.6 million. Amid strong demand for construction materials and labor, ACC officials reasoned at the time that, by scaling back their plans for building a free-standing parking deck, they could avert the need to scale back the size of the Biotechnology Center of Excellence.

The center of excellence is envisioned as a focal point for the community college. Preliminary design plans call for the facility to be built on the site of an existing parking lot at the northeast corner of ACC’s main campus in Graham, near the intersection of Jimmie Kerr Road with I-85/40, and a student services center that would front Jimmie Kerr Road. The latest design plans approved by the trustees last year call for construction of an additional 400 traditional “surface” parking spaces that would be situated adjacent to the biotech center.

Neither the building and grounds committee nor the full board of trustees was asked this week to vote on the request for additional bond money from the county.

The county sold the bonds for ACC’s first two projects, the center of excellence and student services center, in April of this year.

The remaining bonds for ACC are scheduled to be sold in September 2022 for three other projects that were outlined in the $39.6 million bond package voters approved for ACC in November 2018. Those projects include:

· Construction of a $10.4 million public safety training center on approximately 96 acres of land in Green Level that ACC will lease from Martin Marietta Materials of Raleigh. Construction on the public safety training center is scheduled to begin in November 2002 and targeted for completion by the end of 2023.

· A $4.4 million renovation and expansion for ACC’s childcare center and five existing classrooms, plus construction of two new classrooms that would provide flexible space for related activities. Construction on the childcare renovation and expansion is scheduled to begin in November 2022; a target date for completion has not yet been set.

· Building or leasing existing commercial property for a satellite campus in eastern Alamance County and a satellite campus in the western part of the county, each of which would have five classrooms. The costs for establishing the two satellite campuses was originally estimated at $500,000 each, based on the bond package that voters approved for ACC in 2018.

Alamance County commissioner vice chairman Steve Carter is the newest addition to ACC’s trustee board and its building and grounds committee. His fellow commissioners appointed Carter to a four-year term that began July 1 and runs through June 30, 2025.

Read our editorial page opinion on the idea of forking over another $3.1M in county tax dollars: https://alamancenews.com/acc-suck-it-up/

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