Bertie’s ‘early Christmas’

Published 3:22 pm Saturday, July 12, 2014

WINDSOR – There’s no better feeling than a financial windfall, that sudden influx of unexpected money and funds.

That was the news the Bertie County Board of Commissioners received at their July 7 meeting when a representative of the architect firm for the new Bertie High School informed the board that only about a third of the $300,000 contingency budget funds earmarked for the school was ever used.

Ann Williams, of the architect and engineering firm Hite and Associates of Greenville – who’re in the process of completing the building project – spoke to the board to review the financial records to date.

And she came with some very good news: the unencumbered balance of monies set aside but not used, and therefore returned to the county totaled $201,784.15.

“Let me say that we are not finished yet, but we are close,” Williams began. “The end of the project takes some time. We have to finish all the training with the different systems, we have to get all the operations and maintenance manuals in, we have to make sure they’ve cleaned up all the punch list, but I wanted to talk to you today about the money.”

Williams then went on to cover the schools’ furniture orders, change orders, and allowances built into the contractor’s original bid.

Davenport and Co. of Raleigh, the county’s financial advisors, recommended the $300,000 contingency for the nearly $21 million project.

“From there, you transferred $50,000 to the furniture budget, and then from the contingency there were six change orders and you approved every one of them,” Williams explained. “The interesting thing was that most all of them were things that the school wanted. It was not an issue where we left something out or the code people decided to change something.”

The six change orders ranged from classroom modifications to hardware and totaled $132,203.58.

“Even with this (total), this change order list represents less than one-half of one percent,” Williams said. “To think that you had a $20 million dollar project and you only had $132,000 in change orders and all of that was mainly about changing the wing, computer rooms, and different things was really outstanding.”

The subtraction of the change orders left nearly $120,000 in contingency ($117,796.42).

While the orders for the new school’s furniture did not come out of contingency, Williams pointed out that of $50,000 earmarked for furniture, not all of it was used.  After all invoices were paid, there was a surplus of $458.73.

“So if we add this to our running total of the contingency funds then at this point we are at a total of $118,255.15 still left in the contingency fund,” Williams said.

Allowances were also made for the general contractor’s bid: gas tap fee, electrical fee, water tap fee, etc. that needed to have been paid.

“What are these? We don’t know,” Williams said.

She used the example of the asphalt paving contractor’s binder, which was less than originally bid.

“When he bid on it two years ago it was $634 per unit,” Williams explained. “When he began his paving on May 1 it was $583, which was a difference of nearly $50 a unit and ended up being something like $11,000 which he had to give back to us.”

The total of all the unused allowances school-wide came to $33,529.15.  That upped the total return to the county $151,784.30.

“The project, financially, is pretty much over,” Williams said. “We still have a payment or two for the general contractor and the technology contractor that we have not paid yet because they’re not finished, but this is pretty much where your contingency money stands.”

Williams said there was one final change order for the commissioners to approve: a decrease in the general contractor’s contract of what was in essence the unused allowances amount of $33,529.15.  Once that was approved she said then a final financial report would be submitted.

Commissioner John Trent inquired about the fee for the lighting of the school grounds parking lot.

“The lighting is not contingency; the lighting is a lease,” Williams explained. “The lease begins at the point that they put up the lights and they energize the lights and it becomes part of the monthly electrical fee.  What we have left is a DOT re-imbursement for the asphalt for the bus parking driveway.  That was approved two years ago and there has to be a refund.”

She said county manager Scott Sauer and county finance officer William Roberson had requested the $50,000 refund from DOT.

“It will be added to this,” said Williams. “It will (then) be added to this so it would then be $201,784.15.

A motion was made by Commissioner Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson and seconded by Vice-Chairman Charles Smith on the final decrease of WIMCO’s contract by $33,539.15, and it was unanimously approved.

“I don’t think I’d have a hard time getting that approved,” said Chairman J. Wallace Perry, referring to the refund.

Williams finished her presentation with a slide and video presentation recap of the May 18 Ribbon-Cutting and Grand Opening.

“This might be the last time I see you all,” Williams said. “I want you to know we’ve enjoyed the project, we had a really good time with it, and I think it’s been successful.  We began in a really tough winter (2013) and finished in a really tough spring (2014).  We hope the school system and the people in the community really enjoy using this school.”

Perry said the county was grateful to Hite and Associates as well and he informed everyone at the meeting that this would be the final oral report.  The next – and possibly final – report would be written.