“It would cost about $5 million a year (for debt service) if we issued the bonds. We would have to raise taxes to pay it,” Ash said. Commission raised taxes a few weeks by 20 cents.
He explained that the cost of the new Mt Juliet High School was offset primarily by the Adequate Facilities Tax. The tax on new housing has dropped to almost zero recently.
Ash also noted that with sales tax collections decreasing, they would not be a source for funding, either.
“If they want to build this now, they need to come up with funding ideas,” Ash added. “We are aware that it will cost more in a few years, but we’re in a rough spot right now.”
He also said that by 2013 some of the current bonds will be paid off and the county will have more ability to pay for new ones.
District 24 Commission Paul Abercrombie, who chairs commission’s Education Committee, said he thinks the committee may reject the school board’s plan since squires voted to accept only hard bids on county projects.
And he added, “Hewlett-Spencer cut some things out like the Terrazzo flooring and the geo-thermal, that the others included. I don’t think they should have done that.”
Several other commissioners expressed similar concerns at Monday night’s commission meeting.
District 22 Commissioner Heather Scott even asked, “If Hewlett-Spencer bid one set of plans, don’t we have to let Hardaway bid the same?”
And District 21 Commissioner Eugene Murray said he didn’t think the commission would be happy until the bid was apples to apples.
Another member of education committee, District 20 Commissioner Annette Stafford, made it quite clear that she was not pleased with the situation at the county commission meeting Monday night, saying no one knows the full extent of the changes.
She said she sees this as just another way to put LHS on the back burner again.
“It breaks my heart,” she said. “We didn’t have this much drama when it came to Wilson Central High School. We didn’t have this much drama when it came to Mt. Juliet High School.”
However, Hardaway Construction still has concerns and so does Hewlett-Spencer.
What follows is a statement from Stan H. Hardaway, president of Hardaway Construction, which had the lowest competitive bid at $54.9 million. (R.G. Anderson bid $56.6 million.)
"As we have stated in writing to the County previously, we believe that the taxpayers are the ones losing out in the sudden change of direction by the School Board last Saturday. Hardaway was the lowest responsible and responsive bidder whose bid met the requirements and criteria as set forth in the original invitation to bid that was sent out by the County for bids.”
The statement continues, “Hewlett Spencer's proposal was not a competitive bid based on the same plans and specifications as the other bids and therefore, they should be disqualified and their bid rejected not accepted. Hardaway followed the strict bid procedures in bidding this project twice, has significant costs invested in preparing its bid, and should be awarded this project and be given the right to further negotiate with the School Board should a lower budget be desired for this project by the County.”
Hardaway’s statement added, “If the County cannot afford to build the original scope of work that was in our low bid, then we are prepared to begin immediately in analyzing the design and offering ideas to lower our cost to meet their budget. It is nothing personal against Hewlett Spencer, but Hardaway followed the rules and guidelines of the bid procedures and Hewlett Spencer did not. Therefore, we believe that the County should award us this project and work with us on any possible reductions in scope and costs." And Hewlett-Spencer says its plan offers savings because it uses “value engineering.” Value engineering saves money, Hewlett-Spencer said, by giving the community “the best school building possible at a lower cost.”
But what exactly is value engineering?
“Value engineering puts the contractor and the architect together to work out issues, with the school system,” said Bill Fletcher, a spokesman for Hewlett-Spencer. “That’s how we can save money. It does not cut square feet or quality.”
He explained with the example that if you build a rectangular room and a square one containing the exact same number of square feet, the square one will be cheaper to build. But he also said the flooring material, geo-thermal heat and air conditioning and actual square footage are also still one the table as things that could save the county school system money on the proposed new Lebanon High School.
However, that’s not what the school board voted for. “It is in the motion that there will be geo-thermal,” Director of Schools Mike Davis said of the motion voted on by the school board. “It was stipulated in the motion to accept Hewlett-Spencer’s price, that it was to include the geo-thermal.”
“The program space and functional areas in our Guaranteed Maximum Price completely fulfills the program requirements,” Fletcher said. “We only eliminated waste, excesses and unnecessary expenditures such as expensive Terrazzo flooring and areas that had been enlarged far beyond the spacious and beautiful Mt. Juliet High School we just completed.”
With regards to the Terrazzo floors, he added, “Wilson County has never put Terrazzo floors in a new building. The architect puts them in and the school board takes them out.”
He also said since the proposed foyer in the plans for LHS is much larger than the one in the new MJHS, the board could choose to make that area smaller and save money.
“We’ve already submitted a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) that saves county taxpayers over $7 million,” he said.
Fletcher also said, “What we bid is the exact same plan (as other bidders), but there will be some differences.”
Although Fletcher did acknowledge that there might be “minor variations in square footage” when asked to point out specific differences Hewlett-Spencer had value engineered in to save the $7 million, Fletcher said. “It is so global, it goes to almost every brick and board.”
He said money could be saved by how the work would be scheduled and what was built first, second and so on.
“We’re just so good at this that we can save the taxpayers money the same way we have saved them $20 million over the last several years,” he said. “There are others who have had their feet in the public trough that are upset, because we are so good at this that we can save the taxpayers money.”
Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.