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Cost gap (again) provokes conflict (again) on HHS

Architects Jamie Henderson, Maggie Carnavale and Scott Donald answer questions at a School Board meeting. Architects Jamie Henderson, Maggie Carnavale and Scott Donald answer questions at a School Board meeting.

A difference in School Board architects' cost projection and a higher cost blessed by a contractor retained by Henderson County has again led to conflict in the Hendersonville High School project.

The Henderson County School Board on Monday night unanimously endorsed and sent on to the Board of Commissioners the new plan for Hendersonville High School that renovates the historic Stillwell core building and auditorium while adding classroom space and other new buildings. The plans were drawn by a partnership of firms — Asheville-based PFA Architects and LS3P, a Charlotte-based education construction specialist. After a meeting Friday with the contractor that has worked for Henderson County on numerous large projects, the cost projection went up from $52.6 million to $59.2 million.

County Manager Steve Wyatt on Tuesday objected to the way the School Board and its architects characterized the new cost projection as "add-ons" that the county wanted.

He objected to the characterization of the additional cost as add-ons, when those things, including fixtures, furniture and equipment, and the architects' fees, are essential and fundamental.
“Apparently somebody said last night the county wanted to add some stuff. It’s stuff you had to have to have school," he said. "Let me be clear, that’s the total to operate a school or design a school or build a school, like the architects’ fees. I’d be happy to zero that line item out but I don’t think they’d be happy.”

The School Board's projection also failed to include a fee for a construction manager at risk, a contractor who coordinates the project and agrees to bear cost overruns.

“They left that out and we put it back in,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt said it was at his insistence that the county brought in “a third party,” Vannoy, to check behind the architects’ projections. That meeting took place Friday after Wyatt and Commissioner Bill Lapsley, a civil engineer with decades of construction experience, met with PFA principal Maggie Carnavale and her team in December and pointed out what Wyatt describes as significant omissions.

The architectural team, led by Carnavale, Scott Donald and Jamie Henderson, told the School Board on Monday, Jan. 7, that they stood by the $52.6 million projection.
“That’s concerning because again we pointed that out in December,” Wyatt said. “She knew about it last week. We pointed out several things that were not included in that budget.”
Wyatt said he's confident in the Vannoy-blessed projection of $59.2 million, “which I think now is a good number. It’s concerning that as late as a week ago the architect was touting the $52.6 million with buffer.”
Although new artificial turf for the high school football field has never been a part of the overall construction budget, Wyatt said the commissioners expect to include that if they authorize the overall project.
“My frustration has been I’ve got to know how much money we’re going to borrow so we can pay these people,” he said. “It looks like it’s right at $60 million.”

The school system hired PFA Architects in October to do the preliminary design for $130,142, with that amount refundable as a credit if the county school system retains PFA to complete the final design and construction drawings, a job that's expected to take a year.