The Moore County School Board met Monday in special session to review the revised bidding for the new Southern Pines Elementary School and voted 6-0 to approve the bid.

The original budget for the school and site preparation was estimated to be $27.3 million with a projected completion date of June 2020.

According to Moore County Executive Officer for Operations John Birath, several factors including a higher than anticipated rate of inflation and additional site preparation costs substantially increased the projected cost.

A total of five bids were submitted ranging from $29.9 million to $33.3 million. The apparent low bidder was Clays and Theys Construction of Raleigh. During negotiations, Clays & Theys informed Birath that their estimate contained a math error $1.4 million and requested to withdraw their bid.

In a meeting attended by the contractor and Birath, as well as legal counsel for the school board, a meticulous review of the details of the bid was conducted, including a complete review of all bids and documents from subcontractors and vendors who provided proposals to Clancy & Theys.

Video of the new Southern Pines  Elementary School located in Morganton Park North courtesy of Moore County Schools.

After their review, it was decided that there was an error in the bid submission and it was recommended that the bid be rejected as nonresponsive and rejected.

According to the UNC School of Government, for a bid to be accepted, the bidder must be “responsive and responsible.”

For a bid to be considered responsive, it must conform substantially to the bid requirements and must not contain defects or irregularities. A responsible bidder means the bidder has the financial and necessary skills judgment and integrity to perform the contract.

With the rejection of the bid, the school district started negotiations with the next qualified bidder which was Monteith Construction with an initial bid of $30.9 million.

In the subsequent negotiations, the school board used value engineering to reduce the bid.

According to Birath, “value engineering” is not to lose any quality and to maintain equity between the schools. Dr. Robert Grimesey Jr., Moore County Schools Superintendent, added: “There are two considerations; that we are good stewards of the taxpayer’s money and to maintain the equity from project to project.”

The “value engineering” and some additional savings secured by buyer-selected options resulted in a final budget of $30.3 millions of dollars. The Moore County Board of Commissioners initially approved $2.6 million in supplemental funding resulting in a budgetary shortfall of $271,370. The Board of Commissioners reversed that decision Tuesday evening.

The recommendation was that the school board allocate the needed $271,370 from the project contingency fund reducing the fund amount to $500,863.

When asked by several board members if he was comfortable with that balance, Birath responded that they were confident that it would be adequate, considering that they were far along enough in the process to have a good idea of possible contingencies.

After the vote, Board Member Bruce Cunningham commended both Dr. Grimesey and Mr. Birath for their handling of the problem saying “sometimes the quarterback has to call an audible.”

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 8 at 5 pm with a work session the preceding Monday.

Editor’s note: At the time of Monday’s Board of Education meeting, the Moore County Commissioners had approved $2.6 million in supplemental funding. Tuesday evening, the Commissioners, citing the time constraints the original decision was made under, rescinded that decision. It is uncertain what effect this will have on the construction plans. We have reached out to the Moore County School Board for a comment and will update this story when more information becomes available.

Feature photo of artist rendering of the new Southern Pines Elementary School courtesy of Moore County Schools.

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

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