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Commissioners agree to hear HHS alumni's plan

Hendersonville High School alumni are applauding the decision by the Board of Commissioners to hear a presentation the HHS graduates say preserves the historic classroom building for school use while saving money.

After speaking with two county commissioners during a meeting this week of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, County Manager Steve Wyatt invited Carey O'Cain, an HHS graduate, to make a pitch for the option supported by the HHS Alumni Association and much of the school faculty and student body.

"We are on the agenda," said O'Cain, a former construction company executive who invited contractors to cost out his alternative proposal for a new HHS. "So (HHS Alumni Association president) Bill Orr and I will present our scheme."

O'Cain's approach would replace all but the 1926 three-story classroom and auditorium. He says his plan would result in as much square footage as the plan the Board of Commissioners endorsed while not requiring students to attend class temporarily in mobile units. Based on his own construction estimates and those of two other commercial contractors, O'Cain says the county could save $30 million.

The Board of Commissioners initially adopted an option presented by the architectural firm Clark Nexsen that would cost $53 million. After ordering a much larger gym, the cost went up by $10 million. Renovating the Erle Stillwell-designed core building for another use added $13 million more, for a total of $76 million. O'Cain said his plan could be done for $46 million.

County Commission Chair Tommy Thompson said with so much emotion and noise over the HHS decision, he felt the alumni should be heard.

“This school this has been back and forth and back and forth and there’s been all kinds of innuendo about us not having feelings for what the story is and that we don’t know what we’re doing,” he said.

County administrators, engineers and architects have been studying O’Cain’s option and will have a report ready for the meeting.

“Preliminarily we’ve got some ideas,” Thompson said. “But one of the big things is everybody wants to make sure they’re heard. Instead of just saying this is what we’re going to do, like it or not, I feel like we need to get the information and bring in Carey O’Cain and him say what he wants to say.”