Citing the will of the voters, the need to maintain the trust of the public, and having time for thought, the Moore County Board of Commissioners Tuesday rescinded the $2.6 million in supplemental funding for the new Southern Pines Elementary School.

The resolution, which was adopted 6-0, “directs the Moore County School Board to complete the construction of the three elementary schools within the $103 million as approved by a majority of the qualified voters in May of 2018.”

The additional funding was requested when the first apparent low bidder on the Southern Pines Elementary School project withdraw because of a mathematical error in their bid. The next low bid resulted in a substantial increase in the cost of the project.

“The public spoke, the amount of the bond was a $103 million, and this is what the school board requested,” said Moore County Commissioner Catherine Graham. “I think in the interest of our public, our voters, and our citizens we need to honor that.”

Commissioner Otis Ritter questioned why the exceptional low bid was not a red flag to the school board. He continued that the urgency of the request did not give the board of commissioners an opportunity to adequately consider the request.

John Birath, Moore County Operations Officer, stated that during the budget planning, an inflation escalation of four percent was factored into the proposal. Recent worldwide events and changes in the construction industry resulted in inflation running over eight percent.

Graham added, “I realize this will cause difficulty for the school officials overseeing the construction of the new schools.”

The Board of Education is obviously disappointed in the commissioners reversal,” said School Board Chairman Helena Wallin-Miller when asked for a response to the commissioners’ decision. “As we were just awarded the contract for the new Southern Pines School on Monday evening, we are looking at non-construction related costs for the three elementary schools that are currently under construction and impacts on the Pinehurst Elementary and North Moore projects. The Board of Education is hopeful to have future constructive dialogue with the board of commissioners on how to account for inflationary costs that are coming in much greater than the four percent budgeted by the school board.”

In other business, the board of commissioners approved a conditional use permit for a tourist home in Vass, and also called a public hearing to discuss financing on upgrades to North Moore High School. That meeting is scheduled for April 16 at 5:30 p.m.

The board also approved several purchases including a 2020 Mack roll-off truck chassis, replacement of water mains on Virginia Road in Southern Pines and a contract for manhole replacements.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is April 2.

Courtesy photo of Moore County Board of Commissioners.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Local News/Government Reporter Chris Prentice.

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