Board approves seeking $2 million
WINDSOR – The Bertie County Commissioners unanimously endorsed moving forward with applying for an additional $2 million in Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCB) here Wednesday.
The need for the move came after Monday afternoon’s meeting in which the commissioners learned that problems with the soil at the prospective site for a new Bertie High School could cost nearly $1 million.
During Monday’s meeting, Architect Jimmy Hite told the board that estimates to fix the soft soil at the high school site located across the street from the current school were near $960,000.
Hite said the original estimate of $18 million to build the school was based on normal soil at the site.
“Based on a normal site,” asked Commissioner Rick Harrell. “The site hasn’t been normal since day one. We knew it and you knew it.”
Hite said when his firm originally came before the board to qualify for the project, he had no information about the site and went on information provided by another firm that had built a school in the county.
He also told the board he hoped aggressive bids would come in due to the current bid market and that the cost could be absorbed, but it wasn’t a chance the firm would take.
“Our thought is to come before you as soon as we know,” he said. “We don’t want to wait.”
Harrell asked what was the worst case scenario and Hite said it was $960,000.
Interim Bertie County Manager Morris Rascoe informed the board that just over $12.5 million in QSCB funds was available, but the application deadline was Friday. The board has already received $18 million in the funds to build the new school.
Commissioner Norman M. Cherry Sr. asked if they decided to proceed if the county would receive priority because of how far they were in the project.
Rascoe said he was not sure, but that the information could be included in the application.
“We can seek all $12 million or any portion of it,” Rascoe told the board.
Harrell asked where the money would come from if the funds were not available and the bids were not low. Hite said they would have to come from the square footage of the school.
“That’s not an option to me,” Harrell said. “We are limited in our space right now.”
Harrell recommended suggesting the Bertie County Board of Education apply for $2 million in funding to help in case the full amount was not awarded. He further stated, however, that he would need to see the impact the extra funding would have on debt service payments once the school is completed.
Then he asked Hite if that amount would be enough.
“If we are able to borrow another $2 million are you assuring us there will be no additional costs,” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” Hite answered.
The commissioner asked if it was possible to look at another site for the school saying he had never liked the current site.
Hite said it was possible, but would add to the time it took to get it built.
Cherry said he understood the sentiment, but reminded Harrell the location would help with continuing to use the current athletic facilities at the high school.
Harrell said he didn’t want to add to the cost of the school by building new athletic facilities at this juncture.
Cherry then moved to go forward with asking the school board to apply for the funds and having Davenport and Company, the county’s financial advisor, provide debt service figures. Commissioner Charles L. Smith offered a second and the motion passed unanimously.
Commission Chairman L.C. Hoggard III then recessed the meeting until Wednesday.
When the board returned Wednesday, they received information on debt service and agreed to move forward with the application. The board voted 4-0 to proceed with applying for the QSCB funds with Cherry absent.
(Correspondent Gene Motley contributed to this story.)