School construction. The public deserves better from the School Board and Commissioners | Eastern North Carolina Now

This is a trainwreck baring down on us


By Hood Richardson

The 52-million-dollar school construction project looks like a runaway train.  Based on the contract that was signed with the architect on July 31 of 2023, we are lurching toward a huge unknown.  There have been no progress reports made to the Beaufort County Commissioners during the past year.

The insiders have met once a month during the past 3 months for what I presume are construction progress meetings.  The target date to begin construction, according to the architect’s contract, is supposed to be July 31, 2024.   Are the next two months enough time to produce the bid documents, take bids, negotiate details, and begin work?

There are several flies in this ointment.  One is construction cost escalations. Another is the lack of financial infrastructure to administer the contract.  Another is the availability of funding; a capital project ordinance has to be set up.  This requires a budget and the payment of funds into the ordinance.  State law requires the funds to be in-hand before a contract is issued.

But here is the Big Bug in the ointment:  There are no plans that have been released for what is going to be done with the existing Eastern facility?  Is it going to be renovated or demolished?  If demolished, where is the budget (for demolishing) and what is the timeline?  If the existing Eastern facility is going to be used during the construction, what is the site plan?  If it is to be demolished to make room for the new facility what happens to the students while construction is going on?

Construction costs for large projects have been going thru the roof.  Beaufort County has seen bid work double within a two-year period.   Information presented by knowledgeable people during budget sessions held within the past few weeks have recommended escalations in costs of 25 percent and in addition a ten percent contingency for construction projects. T.W. Allen, chairman of the School Board, and the Superintendent advised within the last 30 days they were using the same numbers as was presented in the Architect’s Contract.  That contract presented a $900,000 contingency and a zero escalator as of July 31, 2023.  That is a ridiculously low 1.9 percent.  During stable economic times the contingency should be at least 5 percent.  So, the present budget lacks creditability.

There is the issue of guess work used to size the new school.  It is 20 percent larger than the present enrollment. This, in a zero-growth county.  It seems the Superintendent guessed the size of the new school.  There are several tried and true methods for sizing large projects like schools, water and sewer systems, and transportation projects.  Guessing is not acceptable.  The size needs to be looked at again.

Escalation and uncertainty wreak havoc with bids.  Contractors are willing to take only so much risk.  Conditions in contracts that require the owner to pay for increased materials costs are a red flag. Cost plus contracts should be avoided.  If this is the only way we build this school, I cannot give my support. For one thing, we did not need the new school to begin with.  Why punish the taxpayers of Beaufort County with the high cost of an un-needed school?

To date, the County Commissioners have not set up the Capital Project ordinance for the new school.  This is primarily because Fake Frankie Waters, Superintendent Cheeseman and Chairman of the School Board T. W. Allen have been making all the decisions in the back room.  The law is clear. Only Commissioners can tax.  The money is controlled by the Commissioners.  The gang of three (Waters, Cheeseman and Allen) plan to get everything ready, present it to the Board of Commissioners and demand a vote all in one meeting.  This is a corrupt practice.

The budget ordinance requires deliberation to be effective. The legislature requires the Budget Ordinance be passed before any funds are committed. The Budget Ordinance is supposed to mandate disciplined spending according to the funds allocated for specific purchases.  One of the tricks to get more money is to leave off some of the required items, like furniture, kitchen equipment, some of the parking lots etc.  That is how we overran the last school construction budget by 25 percent.  We went from a 32 million budget to 40 million dollars with the School Board telling us we (the Commissioners) forgot to fund some items.  That budget was put together by the school system and rubber stamped by the Commissioners.  Some of us are determined for these 52 million dollars to be properly budgeted and spent.

Frankie Waters sold out the Board of Commissioners when he was invited to sit in on the progress meeting with the architect and School board.  The Board of County Commissioners are supposed to see that a reasonable budget is developed for this project.  It is the Board of County Commissioners, not the School Board, who will raise your taxes to pay for any shortages or overspending if it happens.  Frankie did this at an illegal meeting held in Pitt County with the architect, Superintendent Cheeseman and Chairman, T. W. Allen.  The meeting was illegal because it violated the Open Meetings Law.  Notice to the entire Board is required.  Frankie Waters has no authority to meet with anyone and make deals without the approval of the entire board voting in a public meeting.  Another violation of the law was that the meeting was held out of Beaufort County.  Fake Frankie, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Representatives of the School System have promised to make presentations updating all of the items discussed above at the June 3rd Beaufort County Commissioners meeting. I requested this presentation because the gang of three (Waters, Cheeseman and Allen) had no answers at their “May Progress Meeting”.

It is likely this will be a cram down meeting because five Commissioners have serious conflicts or are blind to their responsibility to the public to make sure this school building comes in under budget.  Ed Booth’s wife and Randy Walker’s wife are School Board members.  Neither Booth nor Walker has ever voted against the wishes of their wives.  Fake Frankie Waters has already drunk the School Board’s Cool Aid.  John Rebholz is just trying to kiss up and get re-elected.  He is clueless about his fiduciary responsibilities while he looks for support to build public housing.  Langley will probably vote with Booth.  That leaves me and Stan Deatherage to do the right thing.

There are good arguments to delay this project.  Prices may stabilize after the November elections, depending on who is elected.  New board members should be in on these decisions.  There is an opportunity for a new outlook from the School Board after their November elections.  There is no pressing need to have a new school building. Our present buildings are adequate.  The terrible management of this project to date is a harbinger of more bungling going forward. What do we lose if we slow down progress?  Maybe we are better off without the new building. The School Board should have a comprehensive plan for it facilities.  Are the needs in other schools being pushed down to fund this project?  Is this project more urgent than the needs at Bath or Chocowinity?  Has the School Board even considered the needs of the other schools?  Could pupil reassignment meet some of those needs without construction projects?

The taxpaying public should be not “concerned,” but alarmed that Beaufort County has so many elected officials who are ignorant of the meaning of fiduciary responsibility and rudimentary business practices.  It is discouraging that these individuals do not understand democratic processes.  Most people with minimal intellect can learn to investigate before making decisions.  There are few things in this modern world that have not already been accomplished in a professional way.  We are not plowing new ground.  Smart people first learn from the accumulated knowledge of our ancestors and then add to that knowledge.  However, to most of the Board of Commissioners and the School Board, ignorance is bliss.

The public deserves better planning than is being done on this project.  The blame rests with the School Board and the other commissioners who are giving their responsibility to Fake Frankie.  The public deserves to know what the alternatives are and the pros and cons of each alternative, along with the costs.  None of that has been done.   Be careful who you vote for in the fall elections.   Many of the names in this article are on the ballot.


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( June 6th, 2024 @ 9:05 am )
One of the most skilled calligraphers
( June 6th, 2024 @ 7:29 am )
I agree that this would be a strange position for someone actually from Bath. All of the money is being spent in a different school attendance district, not Bath, as has been pointed out. But there is also another reason. This is a school consolidation, and the parents in the old Bath High School district were up in arms when their high school was consolidated with Belhaven and Pantego some years ago. I know people who graduated from the old Bath High School and who think the education their children or grandchildren receive or received at consolidated notheastern high school is much inferior to what they received as studants at Bath High School. For multiple reasons, this poster takes very unusual positions for someone who actually was from Bath.

While there are some arguments in consolidating high schools such as being able to offer more subjects, those do not hold true for consolidating elementary schools into a mega-school. At that level, it is just nuts.
Van Zant said:
( June 6th, 2024 @ 6:32 am )
Yes, Bp might be a central office staffer. One of my associates think it is more likely one of those Repub exec. committee officers with severe HDS. Whatever, it is pathetic excuse for rational argument.

While I think JM made a good point, Hood's complaint about how decisions are made in this county is valid also. His point is valid enough that I consider it to be a county wide problem that does not need to be swept under the rug under the guise of hateful Hood bashing. We should appreciate public servants that have the backbone to do their job. Bottom line: More effort was put into getting lottery money to spend then making a plan for BCSs.
( June 5th, 2024 @ 4:22 pm )
"Bath parent" you have posted the identical comment three times in this thread. That is getting ridicolous. You sound to me more like a Cheeseman central office staffer, anyway.
( June 5th, 2024 @ 2:34 pm )
Hood there has been a bunch of people watching your lies and have had enough. Yes you are caught in another and you are not a Bible scholar. Watch what you say as things are video tapped so you can hear the truth. #hoodlies #needhimoutofoffice
( June 2nd, 2024 @ 9:17 am )
Bath Parent. Are you capable of attacking issues and not personalities. Every person has a personality. Not everyone is capable of addressing an issue intelligently.
( June 2nd, 2024 @ 6:53 am )
Hood there has been a bunch of people watching your lies and have had enough. Yes you are caught in another and you are not a Bible scholar. Watch what you say as things are video tapped so you can hear the truth. #hoodlies #needhimoutofoffice
Big Bob said:
( June 1st, 2024 @ 2:10 pm )
HR - dont even attack someone's religion. Based on your writings, I have zero idea what faith you practice. I will say, Christian wouldn't be my first guess. Just sayin.
( June 1st, 2024 @ 9:10 pm )
The big problem here is total lack of transparency in planning, which has long been a problem with our school board, even pre-dating Cheeseman. Like the last round of school building, this one was concocted in the backroom without public input or outside expert input. For example, did the Washington attendance area have the biggest need, and if it did was this the best location within that attendance area for a school? If memory serves, it seems there have been statements in the past that Washington's growth was projected to be mostly to the west, so would that be the most efficient place to put a new school?

The school board never held any public hearings either to determine needs or to get public input after the plan was conceived. Cheeseman and T.W. Allen clearly want to keep the public in the dark and reserve all power to themselves. That is not the way that government agencies should be run.

Once the school board achieves a majority that is not under Cheeseman's thumb, one of the things they need to do is put together a long range facilities plan, based on input from experts on things like population projections and on public input from the citizens of the county. Government should be conducted in the sunshine and not in secretive smoke-filled rooms.
( June 1st, 2024 @ 8:15 pm )
Just to be clear, the county is not spending $50 million in county tax money. BCS received a grant for $42 million from the NC Department of Public Instruction and then the county committed $10 million. DPI has specific requirements to receive the grant, just repairing schools would not have met those requirements. I do agree there needs to be oversight in the project, but I feel getting a brand new school for $10 million dollars is a deal for the county tax payers.
( June 1st, 2024 @ 10:28 am )
Commissioner Richardson: Liars always project their dishonest natures upon others.

The alias, Bath Parent, is an empty suit devoid of original thought. Have fun with this foil of sophistry, but do not take it seriously; there is nothing there of value within this alias entity.
( June 1st, 2024 @ 7:45 am )
Bath Parent. Keep writing. Your anti Christian side is showing. As for lying, I ask each person to look at the record with some intlect and humility.
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