HCS wants to go back to drawing board for school design plans

HCS wants to go back to drawing board for school design plans
Neil James, Horry County School Board Vice Chairman
Neil James, Horry County School Board Vice Chairman

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - There's still a debate about building new schools in Horry County. It seems a recent energy-efficient school proposal has board members re-thinking their past decisions.

On Monday night, the school board voted and approved a non-binding vote on a motion suggested by board member Pam Timms that would pull out the elementary school and four middle school designs that are currently in the bidding process to re-evaluate those designs to make them more energy efficient. The board also wants to look at a design-build process which would hire a company to design and construct the schools, versus the design-bid-build process which is already in place.

The changes come after last week's meeting when architect Robert Ferris of SFL & A, a company based out of Raleigh, North Carolina, made a presentation about building energy-efficient schools that could save the district thousands of dollars in energy consumption costs with the use of solar panels.

HCS Vice Chairman, Neil James, explained, "Previously from our last meeting, we saw a presentation from an architect from a neighboring school from across the state line that had demonstrated a very energy-efficient model. So we asked the energy services department from Santee Cooper to access that, look at it from a billing process, consumption base, factual review, and that's what they did. They took a look at the information, verified that it was energy-efficient, so the design was a good design."

However, James explained they also found the rules and regulation are different between North and South Carolina, and net metering is not in place here for the district to profit off the re-sale of energy, an idea that was initially proposal during last Monday's meeting.

"Their recommendation was if we were to use solar panels, that we only build those solar panels for the consumption of the school itself, not intending to build a larger one for the sole purpose of selling back to the utility company," said James.

The committee voted as a whole, which is a non-binding vote, but it will give them some kind of idea which way the board is headed.

James said, "We've already issued the RFQ (request for quotation) for that process, the closing date for that has already passed, and we're accessing those bids now, so I personally think the train has already left the station, so to speak."

The price tag for building renovations/additions, one new elementary school (Socastee Elementary), and four new middle schools (North Myrtle Beach, St. James Intermediate, Myrtle Beach Middle School, and Carolina Forest Middle School) is projected to be $465 million.

Instead of starting over with a new plan and designs, James says he would like to see the existing plan in place continue to move forward. "My preference is we proceed with the RFQ that is currently in place and that the next school that is proposed to be built Socastee Elementary, that we utilize a design build process, in doing that as I mentioned earlier we are still in the design phase for all projects, so we can incorporate some of the energy-efficient recommendations that's been suggested," James explained.

The motion that was approved was under a non-binding vote, so the board can access more information in two weeks and vote in an official business session whether to proceed with the RFQ that's already in place, or stop and go in a different direction.

"Hopefully we will all use this two-week period to collect the facts to ensure we are comparing apples to apples. I'd like to make sure we are on an even playing field in terms of comparing option vs. option; we'll have to wait and see," James said.


Copyright 2014 WMBF News. All rights reserved.