AES project takes one new step

Published 1:44 pm Monday, October 8, 2018

WINTON – The Hertford County Board of Commissioners have adopted a Capital Project Ordinance as plans to build a new Ahoskie Elementary School move forward.

At their regularly scheduled meeting here Monday morning, the Commissioners, on a motion from Bill Mitchell, voted unanimously to earmark $14.8 million in revenue to fund the project. Of that amount, $11.3 million is projected to come by way of a bank loan or through the sale of limited obligation bonds.

The remaining $3.5 million is already established through an action approved by the Commissioners earlier in Monday’s meeting by combining $2.4 million of the county’s proceeds from the North Carolina Lottery with moving $1.1 million from appropriated fund balance into the School Capital Reserve Fund.

County Manager Loria Williams stressed to the Commissioners that at this stage of the project the $14.8 million price tag for the new school is only an estimate. That figure is already higher than the $13.88 million projected in August.

“Be reminded that when we get a final bid in hand we may have to revise this ($14.8 million) figure,” Williams said. “Right now that figure is the architect’s estimation of what it will cost to build this new school.”

As of now, the estimated cost for actual construction of the new school is $12.15 million. Other estimated costs to round out the projected $14.8 million total include $910,000 in architectural fees, $800,000 for site development, $500,000 for fixtures, furniture and equipment, $260,000 in contingency funding, $100,000 in administrative costs, and $75,000 for testing/geographical surveying.

As part of the Capital Project Ordinance, Hertford County Finance Officer Sandy Pittman is required to report quarterly to the Commissioners on the status of the ongoing project.

At a meeting in late June, the commissioners approved one of the three options for the new school – a 57,150 square-foot facility across the street from the current Ahoskie Elementary School. The latter has served students since 1959 and has been a topic of serious discussion since 2011 to replace the aging facility.

The chosen option has room for 400 students (600 core) with 14 classrooms, media center, cafeteria/kitchen, a gym (with a platform stage / no bleachers) and no auditorium. Space will be left vacant to possibly add four classrooms.

The new school’s main entrance will be on First Street (NC 561), adjacent to the Town of Ahoskie Cemetery. Faculty/staff and bus entrances to the school will be off Ruth Avenue.

Meanwhile, the Hertford County Board of Education has updated a timeline for the project. That calls for schematic design and design development to occur before Nov. 26; construction documents phase completed by Feb. 25, 2019; receive all necessary permits by March 25, 2019; issue documents for bids by March 28, 2019; award the construction bid by April 25, 2019; receive LGC approval by June 4, 2019; choose the financing method by June 28, 2019; begin construction (an estimated 14-month process) in July of 2019; and open the new school to students/staff in January 2021.

As part of the project, the Commissioners, at their Aug. 20 meeting, approved a financial advisory agreement with Davenport & Company at a cost not to exceed $85,000 plus any customary out-of-pocket expenses such as mileage, meals and lodging. That firm will guide the county through the financing options of the new school.

At that meeting, Ted Cole, President of Davenport & Company, told the Commissioners there are two ways to finance the project – through the sale of limited obligation bonds or by way of a bank loan. Payback, he said, could be 15-to-20 years.

As of Aug. 20, Cole said a bank loan at 20 years is at a 4 percent fixed rate. The bond market, he said, is closer to a 3.5 percent interest rate. At 15 years, the bank loan comes with an approximate 3.5 percent interest rate while a bond is at roughly 3 percent.

“The bond market today is more favorable with its interest rate, but there are a few more moving parts, some additional costs, to that type of financing,” he noted at the Aug. 20 meeting. “Whichever financing method you choose, what you want to see on the bottom line is which one gives you the best value in the terms of annual payments on the loan.”

Cole cautioned the board that they did not have to immediately choose which financing route they needed to take.

“We’re not talking about borrowing any money until 2019; it’s premature at this point to choose one way or the other,” he stressed. “There’s time to further access that as things get closer to the date when you have a (construction) bid.”

He said the LGC likes to see “bids in hand” before giving their blessings on any project.

“They want to make sure that the money you are borrowing is adequate, but not excessive for your project,” Cole observed. “That’s the work we will be doing with your staff over the course of the next few months as this project progresses. We will come back to this board periodically to give updates as the project develops.”

To help offset the cost, the commissioners and members of the county’s board of education have stated their intent to apply for a Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund from the state.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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