School Board: Mitchell given contract
by The Press and Standard | December 20, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: December 18, 2018 at 3:53 pm
Colleton County School Board members voted in special session on Dec. 11 to hire Mitchell Construction Company Inc. to renovate the former Forest Circle Middle School to transform the facility into a new centralized district office.
The school district pre-qualified four general contractors in May for the project after reviewing the qualifications of contractors interested in bidding on the project.
Mitchell Construction submitted the low bid: $6,170,000.
While the $6.1 million covers the work undertaken by Mitchell Construction, Colleton County School District Superintendent Dr. Franklin Foster, during a review of the proposed project, said a variety of “soft costs” will take the price tag on the work to $7,718,000.
Those soft costs included:
• $379,000 in architect fees;
• $90,000 for roofing repairs;
• $80,000 for Chapter 1 and Chapter 17 inspections;
• $64,000 for asbestos abatement;
• $10,000 for permits/inspections/impact fees;
• $10,000 for survey fees;
• $500,000 for special systems, information technology and audio-visual;
• $350,000 for furniture;
• $10,000 for asbestos testing;
• and $55,000 for an emergency generator.
Barry H. Taylor with the FWA Group, the Beaufort County-based architectural firm hired to handle the design work, discussed the bids for the work.
Board member Tim Mabry asked if the bids were based on current material and labor costs and was told those numbers were updated in October.
Based on questioning from school board member William Bowman, who was given his oath of office at the beginning of the session, Taylor replied that the school district was using the design-built contracting method in the renovation of the former middle school, instead of the risk management contracting method that the board used on the new Bells Elementary when Bowman was previously on the school board.
Mitchell Construction, Taylor said, will be locked into “a hard bid” on the construction.
Bowman wondered if the school district had to pick the lowest bid. He was told that that was not a requirement. But, Dr. Foster added, Mitchell Construction was the low bidder and the school district “had experience with them.”
School District Finance Director Emily Temple followed Taylor to the podium to refresh board members’ recollections on how the construction project was going to be paid for.
Temple said that the five mill General Obligation Bonds the school board members approved earlier this year (and will be on the tax rolls for five years) will generate $5.5 million for the new construction.
The tax will translate into a tax increase of $20 a year for the owners of a residential property valued at $100,000 and $30 a year for businesses valued at $100,000.
That amount will be bolstered by $430,954 generated by a net bid premium paid to the district by the company that sold the bonds and $1,787,046 from the district’s Capital Project funds.
Allocating that $1.7 million will bring the district’s Capital Project fund balance down to $1 million.
When Dr. Foster recommended the board members approve issuing the contract to Mitchell Construction, Bowman made a motion to go into executive session to discuss the matter behind closed doors. Board member Sharon Witkin, attending her first board meeting representing the school system’s Third District, seconded the motion.
When it came time to vote on the executive session, Mabry, Mary Jones and Patricia Simmons joined Witkins and Bowman in voting yes. Board members Charles Murdaugh and Harry Jenkins voted against going into executive session.
After they returned to public session to vote on the construction contract, Bowman cast the lone no vote.
It was not Bowman’s only no vote in the special session.
Temple returned to the podium to discuss a resolution to have the board members approve the funds generated by the General Obligation Bond placed in the Local Government Investment Pool.
She explained when the proceeds from the sale of the bonds were first received, the school district placed the money with South State Bank, based on the recommendation of Colleton County Treasurer Becky Hill. Hill suggested the move, Temple explained, because the financial institution was generating a higher interest rate.
Now, Temple added, the interest rate offered by the state’s Local Government Investment Pool was higher and Hill was recommending the money be placed in the pool for investment until construction begins and the school district starts drawing out the money to pay for the work.
Bowman asked if Temple had talked to South State Bank about the decision to move the money elsewhere. Temple said she had not talked to the bank and did not know if Hill had spoken to the bank before making the recommendation.
Bowman said he thought the school district was being unfair to South State Bank and that it should be given a chance to match the interest rate the pool will provide.
Simmons said the decision was just like seeking a house loan, “You find the lowest rate and go with it.”
Witkin wondered if the board members should consider tabling the resolution until the next regular meeting, scheduled for Dec. 18.
Bowman then offered a motion to table the measure but it died for the lack of a second.
When moving the money into the pool came to a vote, Bowman again voted no.