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School Board sends county costlier — by $7 million — HHS construction plan

The Henderson County School Board unanimously endorsed and sent on to the Board of Commissioners on Monday night a new plan for Hendersonville High School that preserves the historic Stillwell core building while adding a second large classroom building, second gym, new courtyard space and numerous security improvements.


The School Board's action comes a week after the body saw a presentation of the design from two architectural firms formed a partnership for the project in response to the School Board’s request for a new plan. The firms are Asheville-based PFA Architects and LS3P, a Charlotte-based education construction specialist. Combined, the two firms have completed more than 2,500 K-12 school projects across the Southeast.

Although the architects said they could deliver the renovation-new construction plan within the School Board's target of $52.6 million, the price has already had gone up by $7 million. The increase came after a detailed analysis of costs and some add-ons county officials asked for. The new number is $59,175,605.

The School Board and the public won't have to wait long to see the county's reaction. Commissioners will see the project and hear from the school administrators on Wednesday during a daylong budget retreat. The retreat is designed to plan, among other things, capital spending for the next four years and HHS construction is likely to carry the single biggest price tag. The architects have been working with Vannoy Construction, a contractor that has built numerous buildings for the county and has served as construction manager at risk, which forces the contractor to bear any cost overruns.

The plan would result in 150,000 square feet of new and renovated space, including 91,000 square feet of new building. The architects have been working for 90 days on the project.

"They have been a given a monumental task to accomplish over the last 90 days and they have been steadfast, they have been flexible and they have been so insightful with information that they have provided and more importantly they have given us their undivided attention," Assistant Schools Superintendent John Bryant said.

On Friday, the design team spent most of the day with Vannoy to review the numbers, "line item by line item," PFA principal Maggie Carnevale said. "I am confident that we can do the design that we've been working with you on with this budget. The county's team at risk is confident in these numbers."

Amy Lynn Holt admitted to having some doubts about the vow she publicly made four months ago.

"I marched into the Courthouse" and into County Manager Steve Wyatt's office and said, "Give us another chance." The plan the architects came up with more than met her goal. She thanked the team and she thanked the Board of Commissioners. "They let us do it," she said.

Questioned by board member Blair Craven on whether the higher cost is the absolute maximum, with "no coming back," Carnevale again said she was confident that it was.

New board member Jay Egolf, an HHS alumnus wearing Bearcat red, said he felt like an Oscar winner who needed to thank everyone who made the new proposal possible — School Board members, school administrators, HHS principal Bobby Wilkins, the commissioners and the Hendersonville City Council.