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Committees agree to meet in joint session to discuss new LHS

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By CONNIE ESHThe Wilson Post

Members of the Wilson County Commission Budget and Education Committees and the Wilson County Board of Education have agreed to meet in a joint session on Thursday to discuss a new Lebanon High School, possibly the only thing they agree on so far.

The purpose of the meeting is to see where things stand with regard to approving and funding a new LHS.

Earlier this month, County Attorney Mike Jennings sent a memo to all the parties involved summarizing the issues and the actions taken thus far by the commission, the board and the two committees. The memo is expected to be the main topic of discussion at the meeting which is to be at 6:30 p.m., Thursday in the commission’s chambers at the Wilson County Courthouse.

That memo says among other things that the commission passed two differing resolutions concerning the bidding process.

The first one, passed in December 2006, required that “any capitol improvement projects funded by the Wilson County Commission or any of its operating units will be publically advertised and competitively bid.”

In October 2007, the commission passed a second resolution intended, it said, to clarify its intent about building projects.

It contains a statement that projects are to be publically and competitively bid as well, but the section of the resolution ends, “either by the standard bidding process or by the use of the guaranteed maximum procedure.”

Jennings points out in his memo that this makes it unclear which types of bidding were allowed.

His memo goes on to point out that the commissioners did make it clear that whatever methods were used they needed to be competitive. He quoted District 3 County Commissioner Fred Weston who said, “a guaranteed price isn’t so bad, if we have two companies who want to give us a guaranteed price.”

He added that he told the commissioners that he understood the resolution to mean that if the new LHS was publically and competitively bid, the commission would fund it, but not if it was not bid that way.

He said the commissioners appeared to have agreed with him.

The memo then gets into the various proposals heard, discussed and in some cases passed by the school board.

In March, District 4 County Commissioner Jim Emberton and District 14 County Commissioner Jeff Joines attended the board meeting as delegates from the commission and asked “that the construction of the new LHS be put out to bid in an open bid process,” according to Jennings’ memo.

Later in that same meeting, Jennings pointed out that a motion by Zone 3 Board Member Don Weathers to go forward with Hewlett-Spencer was not approved.

Weathers said his motion was based on a letter from the school board to Hewlett-Spencer dated June 5, 2006, which he thought guaranteed them the right to prepare the bid.

In the end, it seems the board also passed two differing resolutions regarding the bidding process.

At the April 2008 meeting, the board did approve a motion this time by Zone 1 Board Member Wayne McNeese and seconded by Weathers to have Hewlett-Spencer prepare a guaranteed maximum price for LHS.

In June 2008, the board voted on a motion by Zone 2 Board Member Lisa McMillin to “follow the wishes of the county commission and competitively bid the construction of the new LHS project.”  So, according to Jennings, at that point the board had instructed Hewlett-Spencer to prepare a guaranteed maximum price and voted to competitively bid the project.

The bids were received in July ’08, but before the August meeting Jennings discovered that they were all technically non-compliant with Tennessee building codes.At that time the board rejected all the bids and voted to rebid the school.

About the same time, Richard Warren, the attorney for Hewlett-Spencer, sent a letter saying he thought it would be in the best interests of the school board and the taxpayers to let Hewlett-Spencer complete their guaranteed maximum price.

Jennings said he responded telling the attorney that the board had rejected the other bids and that they were already authorized to complete their price package.Jennings also said he told the attorney in that letter that Hewlett-Spencer should base their bid on the existing plans and specifications.

The second set of hard bids were opened Oct. 2, 2008, and Hewlett-Spencer delivered their maximum price quote the same day, however it was not based on the plans prepared by the architect.

Later that month, Hardaway Construction advised the school board through Jennings that they would be willing to work with the board to save money on the project.

Then on Oct. 18, 2008 the board rejected the hard bids and accepted the Hewlett-Spencer proposal.

In December, the proposal was presented to the commission’s education panel which voted to defer action until it was determined if the project could be funded. The same night, the budget panel asked Jennings to research the matter and would later call a joint meeting.

Finally, Jennings pointed out that none of these issues may matter right now.

“If the County Commission determines that it cannot fund the project at this time, then all these other issues become moot, at least at this time,” he said.

Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at

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