School Board Chairman defends going over budget for new schools

School Board Chairman defends going over budget for new schools

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – School Board Chairman defends spending more money than proposed budget for new schools.

Wednesday night, Horry County School Board Chairman, Joe Defeo, met with parents and community members to discuss why the selection committee chose what appears to be the most expensive contractor to take on the project.

"The public cares, the public wants to know why we spent $50 million dollars more and it's not $70 but $50 million dollars more than what was on the budget," Defeo said.

Chairman Defeo wanted the community to know every option was over the budget.

"One was about $16 million, one was about $30 million and one was $50 million over," he added.

Defeo says the proposed cost for the five new schools is $220 million and understands a natural question to ask is, why choose the highest price? His answer, no other proposed building was a match to what the board demanded.

The board had a concrete list of must haves each proposer knew about while drafting a design. A list that's been in the works for more than two years.

"The others proposed an energy source, to a degree, but they didn't guarantee the performance of the building and the energy positive structure that we wanted and that's the save electricity, and to save a lot of money. Millions of dollars over the years," Defeo explained.

Defeo says it wasn't just an issue with the buildings and that the two other contractors didn't fix six to eight classrooms, where children would be spending most of their time.

"As a board chairman, as a teacher, as a principal, as a parent, as a community, do you want classes built, with classrooms with no windows in them," Defeo said.

Defeo says it was clear every contractor was having trouble meeting budget and as a chairman, he knew there was more money to be put towards this project if necessary. The school board just couldn't do that too early in this process.

"…but there was no point in throwing another 50 million dollars out there, if we were already halfway through the RFP. That's just giving them a license to spend more money. Let them fight, get it as cheap as they can… still provide what we ask for, and let the best proposer win," Defeo said.

Defeo believes the best proposal was chosen. That being the one from First Floor Energy Positive, a firm out of North Carolina.

As for the schools, Defeo says construction crews will start on three of the five schools and are waiting on permits. He says one sight has to be demolished, and the county is trying to close on one more piece of property.

The sight that still has to be demolished, is now the Myrtle Beach Family Learning Center. Defeo says the new Myrtle Beach Middle School will be built on that land.

The site the county still has to close on is for the Socastee Middle School.

Defeo says the completion date is still set for May 2017.

Copyright 2016 WMBF News. All rights reserved.