Recent allegations of irregularities in the bidding process for the new Southern Pines Elementary School have prompted a response from the Moore County Board of Education.
Local radio host John Zumwalt called into question the timeline of events surrounding the bid process and the sudden departure of the lowest bidder. This departure led to a last-minute effort to gain additional funding for the next highest bidder from the Board of Commissioners.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Moore County Board of Education Chairman Helena Wallin-Miller addressed, “false and unsubstantiated claims that the administration of Moore County Schools “lied” about these events in a March 5 presentation to the county commissioners.”
The sequence of events, as reported by Chairman Wallin-Miller, are as follows.
On February 26, bids were opened for the construction of the school. All the bids were over budget, but the apparent low bidder was Clancy & Theys construction with a bid of $29,847,979 with Montieth Construction with a bid of $30,966,000.
The following day, the school architect emailed Clancy & Theys notifying them that they were the apparent low bidder, and furthermore stating that the project was over budget and some value-engineering would be necessary to reduce the overall contract cost. During this process, Clancy and They discovered a significant mathematical error in their bid, and they would be unable to complete the project for the bid price.
They notified John Birath, Moore County Executive Officer for Operations, of this on March 4, 30 minutes before a presentation to a Board of Education Work Session.
The following day, Birath and Moore County Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Grimesey appeared before the Board of Commissioners explaining the situation and requesting permission to accept the next lowest bid, requiring an additional $2.68 million.
According to the provided statement “Under these dire circumstances, Dr. Grimesey and Mr. Birath made the sound decision to ask to be heard by the County Commissioners to seek additional funding and avoid the prospect of an additional $401,840 cost escalation that would occur at noon that day if Monteith withdrew from consideration.
The County Manager agreed to present this request to the commissioners, and Mr. Birath headed over to the county office at that time. With little time and no opportunity to update the full board at a properly noticed meeting, Dr. Grimesey called me, as Board Chair, to let him know what he was doing. I fully supported, and still fully support, his decision.”
Additional questions have been raised about why the school board agreed to return the $1.4 million bid bond.
According to Wallin-Miller, “ It is important to understand that forfeiture of the bond of this nature is not an easy, automatic process. Given the dollar amount, it is highly unlikely that the bond would be paid without protracted, and expensive litigation.”
You can download the entire statement here.
Wallin-Miller also vouched for the veracity of all involved in the process. “In sum, all of the information presented by our administration to the Board of Education, the County Commissioners and the public was – to the best of my knowledge and based on a thorough review of these matters with staff and legal counsel – entirely fair and accurate and consistent with our high standards for integrity and transparency.”
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Courtesy feature photo of Moore County Board of Education Chairman Helena Wallin-Miller.
~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Local News/Government Reporter Chris Prentice.
Contact him at [email protected] or (910) 639-9303.
To read article on what John Zumwalt said on-air regarding the bidding process of the Southern Pines Elementary School, please click the below link.