Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Bond projects incomplete more than 4 years after voters agreed to spend $150M


Nearly all of the projects funded by the $150 million bond projects voters approved for the Alamance-Burlington school system in November 2018 remain incomplete, school board members were told during their latest meeting Monday night. (See accompanying chart for a breakdown of the construction and renovations that the 2018 bond package was intended to fund.)

[Story continues below graphic summarizing status of bond package construction.]

However, ABSS officials have offered their repeated assurances throughout the last several months that construction of the new $67.5 million high school (Southeast High School) along N.C. Highway 119 remains on schedule for completion by late May and will open in August for the 2023-24 school year.

Greg Hook, who became the school system’s chief operations officer (COO) last month, told the board Monday night, “None of the bond projects are done even though we have certificates of occupancy, except for the new high school.” Hook gave no time frame for when the bond projects might be completed.

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At the same time, Hook told the board that any use of the $14.8 million in remaining bond proceeds that ABSS has on hand will require the county commissioners’ approval in order to “reallocate” those funds to complete projects at four schools.

School board members subsequently voted to authorize the school system’s administrators to ask the county to reallocate $2,905,300 in unused bond proceeds, which Hook said he will present to Alamance County’s commissioners at their next meeting on Monday morning:
• Southeast High School: $1.5 million would be moved from the budget for bond projects at Western High School to “stock the school”;
• Southern High School: $915,736 in unused bond proceeds to replace security cameras, install electronic door control systems, build a brick security wall, and replace asbestos flooring materials;
• South Mebane Elementary School: $239,864 in unused bond proceeds to replace the roof on the media center, office area, and connecting hallway, as well as to replace asbestos flooring materials;
• Williams High School: $250,000 in unused proceeds to replace security cameras and install electronic door access systems.

The only request to move funding from one bond project to another one altogether would be from Western High School to the new high school, based on Hook’s presentation.

ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler told The Alamance News Monday night that all of the bond projects had been substantially under-budgeted, even though each of the individual projects that were outlined in the 2018 bond package has remaining proceeds on hand.

For his part, Hook told the newspaper that the budget for the new high school wasn’t sufficient to buy all of the supplies needed to open the new high school. Asked to clarify what he meant by “stock the school,” he said the additional $915,736 in unused bond proceeds for Western High School are needed in order to purchase all supplies except furniture and audiovisual equipment and connections for the auditorium at Southeast High School. Those items were covered under two separate contracts that the school board approved on December 5, 2022: a $1.5 million contract for furniture; and a $383,885 contract for the AV equipment and connections.

Southern High School also has $810,000 in bond projects that still need to be completed, based on Hook’s presentation to the school board. Those include: replacing security cameras ($150,000); installing electronic door access control systems ($60,000); installation of a serpentine brick security wall at the perimeter of the buildings ($500,000); and replacement of asbestos flooring materials and tiles in the cafeteria ($100,000).

ABSS officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in May 2022 at South Mebane Elementary School – one of the first bond projects to get underway several years ago – to mark the completion of a new classroom building and cafeteria, but that project isn’t finished, either, Hook said Monday night.

According to the new COO, more than $500,000 in repairs are still needed at South Mebane, which he said include replacing the roof on the media center, office area, and a connecting hallway, as well as replacing flooring materials that contain asbestos in a main hallway.

“Right down the main hallway, the floor’s coming up, and you see all the stained ceiling tiles in that section,” Hook said referring to the interior corridor at the main entrance into South Mebane Elementary School. “We don’t have enough money because of the cost of the roof replacement and the tile replacement.”

Williams High School also has approximately $240,000 in bond projects that need to be completed, Hook told school board members Monday. Those include: camera replacement ($180,000) and installation of electronic door access controls ($60,000). He also said that other needs identified at Williams include replacing the roof, lighting, and four sets of side doors in the auditorium. No estimate was given for those items. Williams High School has security cameras, “but those cameras are 10 years old,” Hook told the board, adding, “they need to be replaced at all the high schools.”

“We don’t have enough money to complete the project,” Hook said Monday night.

Hook said Cummings High School has $2.2 million in unused proceeds from the total of $10.9 million that had been earmarked for Cummings in the 2018 bond package, though that wasn’t on the list of reallocation requests to be presented to the commissioners Monday morning. To use the remaining funds, Hook told the board, “We would have to work through the county commissioners.” He said the school has cameras, but they have a finite life span and will need to be replaced this summer. He said other needs identified at Cummings include repaving the driveway leading from Mebane Street to the high school and repaving a bus lot that’s shared with the adjacent Broadview Middle School.

As for other unfinished work, Hook said that asbestos flooring materials need to be replaced and electronic door access controls need to be installed at Western High School. “We would have to go back to the county commissioners for that decision,” he repeatedly advised the board.

School board member Dan Ingle asked Hook how restricted the bond proceeds are. “I know Cummings had a pretty significant amount left,” Ingle said Monday night, adding that state senator Amy Galey, who represents Alamance County in the General Assembly had gotten $688,000 in state funding last year to resurface the track at Cummings. “Then we found out we had a drainage problem,” Ingle added.

The original scope of work at Cummings High School outlined in the 2018 bond package had included remediating “poor drainage at parking lots and around buildings,” as well as other upgrades and repairs.

Asked by Ingle whether remaining bond proceeds could be used for other repairs needed at Cummings High School, Hook said, “Yes and no…it would have to go before the county commissioners.”

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