Horry County Board of Education on Monday passed a non-binding motion to delay design plans for five new schools for at least two weeks.
The board’s Committee of the Whole spent more than an hour and a half discussing the bidding process and financial plan for a 10-year building plan that officials hope will be complete in two years.
However, the committee passed a motion removing the five new schools from the construction plan so members can review energy-efficient models before approving any designs.
“We owe it to the people of Horry County to save them tens of thousands of dollars, if we can,” said Pam Timms, District 6 representative. The motion, which was presented by Timms, passed by a 6-8 vote.
The dissenting board members argued that delaying the decision to move forward with the design process – which is closed for bidding and now in evaluation stages – would only upset constituents.
“We’ve already stalled this project enough, so removing these schools is only going to delay us further,” said Neil James, of District 10.
Since the decision was made by a committee it’s non-binding, which means the board members will vote on it officially at their next meeting on Nov. 10.
Keeping with the design theme, representatives from Santee Cooper presented a study to the board regarding the cost/benefit of adding solar panels to new schools, though they warned against relying on any solar power credits to fund future utility bills.
Philip Greenway, with commercial energy services, told the board that Santee Cooper’s board of directors just ordered a rate study to be completed by 2016. That study will detail the dollar amount commercial customers can earn by selling back energy developed by solar power. Right now, the company doesn’t know what those credits would be for future schools.
“Our recommendation,” Greenway said, “is to size the [solar panels] to consume just what you generate.”
Greenway recommends choosing panels that can be added to, in case Horry County Schools later decides to sell back any extra energy after Santee Cooper’s study determines the rates.
“But any design model should not count on these credits being immediately available,” Greenway said.
The board also heard the pros and cons of different bidding processes, including a newer system called “Design-Build.” This process allows the board to set design requirements, a time frame and a budget. Architectural firms then come up with a design they think meets those criteria.
“You’ve already established a cost and time frame, so those should be about the same, no matter the architect,” said Keith Powell, Horry County School’s attorney.
Design-Build allows the board to start construction on pieces of the school before the complete design is finished, which saves time, Powell said.
“You can start early,” Powell said, “and just go from there.”
All legal hurdles still apply to the Design-Build process, including building approval by the state. Powell said this method probably won’t reduce competition among architects, since the state provides stipend to the losing firms.
“It may reduce the amount of initial firms bidding, but doesn’t reduce the number of final competitors who present complete designs,” Powell said.