Friday, June 14, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Two-thirds of money already approved by commissioners in past 4 years not yet spent

Commissioners say they have appropriated $15.6 million, but school officials have used only $4.3 million, less than one-third of available funds

A report that Alamance County’s commissioners have issued reveals that, while more than $15 million has been allocated for roof repairs, the Alamance-Burlington school system has spent just $4.3 million, or about 28 percent, of the funds that the commissioners have allocated for those repairs (see related story, this edition).

School officials have attributed recent “significant leaks and water intrusion” – i.e., roof leaks – at seven ABSS schools to a massive storm system that moved through Alamance County on January 9, saying “the aftermath from this storm” illustrates the need for adequate funding for roofs, water intrusion, and HVAC” from Alamance County’s commissioners.

But the county’s report, however, illustrates that the commissioners have, in fact, allocated more than $15.6 million in county funding for roof repairs at nine ABSS schools, which include the seven schools that ABSS reported leaks at following the rain storm on January 9 (see accompanying chart for a breakdown of county funding for roof repairs).

To date, the school board has voted to award contracts for roof work at seven schools: three contracts are for the actual repairs to be made; four contracts are to design roof repairs.

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The county report shows that the bulk of funding for roof repairs has been allocated since 2021, though ABSS has actually had funds in hand for some roof repairs since October 2019, when commissioners approved the first of four funding requests to repair the roof at Graham Middle School.

The commissioners approved a funding request of $320,188 in October 2019 and subsequently approved three additional funding requests, reflecting a total of $1.4 million in county funding that has been allocated to repair the roof at Graham Middle School.

School board members voted unanimously on December 4, 2023 to award a contract of $1.3 million to Triad Roofing Company of Winston-Salem to repair the roof at Graham Middle School.

In the case of two schools impacted by recent, heavy rain – Graham High School and Haw River Elementary School – county funding for roof repairs had been available for two years, but no repairs have been made.

The county’s report also reveals that commissioners had also previously allocated funding for roof repairs at six other schools that ABSS officials say had “significant leaks and water intrusion” as a result of the rain storm on January 9.  School officials issued a press release that night, while the storm was still in progress, saying that Graham High School had been the hardest-hit, followed by Haw River Elementary School.

“Adequate funding for roofs, water intrusion, and HVAC must be considered by the county to prevent this from happening,” ABSS officials said in their press release, issued at 8:34 p.m. on January 9.  “This aftermath from the storm is just one example that shows the need for increased support.”  ABSS issued a similar, subsequent press release after the second rain storm on January 16.

Alamance County received approximately 2.5 inches of rain on January 9 and a comparatively negligible one-tenth of an inch of rain on January 16, according to cumulative precipitation totals published by the National Weather Service.

ABSS public information officer Les Atkins told The Alamance News during a tour of the storm damage at Graham High School the morning of January 10 that school officials were planning to submit a written report to the county once all storm-related damages had been assessed.

Alamance County officials told the newspaper that no report had been submitted by ABSS as of late last week.

In addition to Graham High School, school officials listed six other ABSS schools in its January 9 press release where they said significant leaks had been reported: B.E. Jordan Elementary School; Eastern High School; Haw River Elementary School; South Mebane Elementary School; Western Middle School; and Western High School.

A roof repair project at South Mebane Elementary School had been put into a “design phase” in late 2022, based on a report that the joint ABSS/county capital oversight committee (OSC) heard at the time.

While there is no indication that that project has been complete, the roofs on another wing of South Mebane Elementary, called the “K-2 wing,” and an existing cafeteria were replaced in November 2020 and funded by an $8.5 million portion of the proceeds from the $150 million bond package that voters approved for ABSS in November 2018.  (Along with renovations throughout the elementary school, the bond projects at South Mebane also included construction of a second kitchen.)


B.E. Jordan Elementary School

Alamance County’s commissioners approved a funding request from ABSS for $52,500 to design a repair for the roof at B.E. Jordan on September 18, 2023, according to the ABSS Funding Information report that the county issued late last week.

A week later, on September 25, school board members voted to award three contracts to design roofing repairs to REI Engineers of Raleigh: one for $52,500 for B.E. Jordan; and two separate design contracts, for $140,625 and $108,855, for Western High and Western Middle schools, respectively.


Graham High School

Meanwhile, Alamance County’s commissioners had allocated a total of $5 million in February and October 2022 for roof repairs at Graham High School, which ABSS officials have since said experienced significant leaks during the January 9 rain storm.

The commissioners approved an initial funding request of $2.7 million for roof repairs at Graham High on February 21, 2022; and on October 17, 2022, they approved an additional request of $2.3 million for roof repairs at Graham High School.

The commissioners noted in their report last week, “To date, ABSS has not awarded a contract to complete this project.”

On January 3 of this year, ABSS posted a Request for Proposals (RFP) on the school system’s website for a roof replacement at Graham High School; a public bid opening was scheduled for Tuesday, January 30.


Haw River Elementary School

School officials have said that Haw River Elementary School had been the second-hardest hit by the January 9 rain storm.

ABSS chief operations officer Greg Hook told school board members last week, during a discussion about roofing repairs planned at Haw River Elementary School, that work would begin on that project “in the next 60 days,” adding, that it can be completed while students are in school.

Hook, who took over as the school system’s COO in March 2023, has said several times since in recent months that one of his top priorities, following the $26 million in mold remediation completed at 33 ABSS facilities at the beginning of this school year, is working with the commissioners to prioritize roof and HVAC  repairs.

The county commissioners authorized two separate studies in September 2023 to assess current status of the roofs and HVAC systems in all school facilities, as well as county-owned buildings;  they are due to receive the results from those studies on February 5, according to a copy of the commissioners’ ABSS funding report that county officials provided to The Alamance News.


Eastern High School

Alamance County’s commissioners voted on November 20, 2023 to allocate $177,880 that ABSS had requested to design a roof repair project at Eastern High School.  School board members subsequently voted 7-0 at their meeting on December 4 to award a contract in the same amount for the design work to REI Engineers.

In late October 2023, school board members were told that 42 work orders had been submitted for roof leaks at Eastern High School – including leaks reported in the newest roof, which was installed in 2021 as part of an $11.6 million cafeteria expansion and renovations throughout Eastern that had been funded by the $150 million bond package voters approved for ABSS in 2018.


Williams High School

Last week, school board members were also told that problems at Williams High School have also popped up on the radar as a result of ongoing “water intrusion,” i.e., leaks from a variety of sources, not just roofs. Widespread structural repair work that an engineering firm in Raleigh says are needed to mitigate further water intrusion at Williams High School is currently estimated to cost approximately $3.9 million, though ABSS has not yet submitted a funding request for that project to the commissioners.

School board members unanimously agreed by consensus during their meeting last Monday night to authorize Hook to present a new proposal, outlining the repairs needed at Williams – which school officials say has been developed at no cost to ABSS by REI Engineers of Raleigh – to the joint oversight (OSC) committee for a discussion last Thursday morning.

[Story continues below charts.]

During Thursday’s meeting of the joint Capital Oversight Committee (OSC), county commissioner chairman John Paisley, Jr. questioned school officials about why they were blaming the county for inadequate funding for roof repairs when the school system hasn’t used what has already been appropriated.

“If you had the money, why haven’t you gotten the [roof] work done?”

– County commissioner chairman John Paisley, Jr.

“If you had the money, why haven’t you gotten the work done?” Paisley asked school officials that included chief operations officer Greg Hook, school board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves, and vice chairman Donna Westbrooks.

Hook mentioned bid openings that were scheduled to be conducted on the following Tuesday (January 30), referring to the roof repair work at Graham High School.

Paisley pressed about why it is taking “so long to get the work done.” Hook, formerly principal at Hawfields Middle School, explained that he had been in the facilities job only since last March.

Paisley also criticized what he said was the school system’s tendency to “go to the media first,” before raising substantive issues with the county.

Paisley cited that the school system recently used the heavy rains on January 9, and resulting leaks at seven schools, to issue a press release blaming the county commissioners, saying the roof leaks “exacerbated these ongoing issues as a result of inadequate funding” by the county.

Paisley said such publicity “makes us to look unfairly bad.” He pointed to the information just put out by the county that shows commissioners have funded millions of dollars for roof repairs, some several years ago, that still haven’t been spent by the school system.

Meanwhile, storms that lingered throughout Alamance County between last Thursday and Sunday evening dumped approximately 2.6 inches of rain.

ABSS officials have not yet said what impact, if any, last weekend’s storms have had on school facilities, though they did post a message on their social media accounts Thursday afternoon, stating that a Graham Middle School basketball game scheduled for that evening would be rescheduled due to a leak in the gym.

The county’s full report, “ABSS Funding Information,” from the county’s website, is available HERE

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