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Minutes show conflicting numbers on HHS cost projections

It’s no surprise that Henderson County commissioners and School Board members are not on the same page when it comes to the cost of the new Hendersonville High School and what’s included in the $52.6 million price the county has authorized. Both boards have heard different numbers at different times, according to minutes of their meetings.

Commissioners and the School Board meet Thursday afternoon to try to resolve their differences over an $11 million gap in the project the county has OK’d and what School Board members say they were told when they approved the new construction option in a 4-2 vote in December 2016.

The two boards have discussed new construction or renovating the existing Stillwell building multiple times since 2015 and have several times gotten conflicting information, sometimes during the same meeting, according to the  review of minutes of both boards by the Hendersonville Lightning.
At a joint meeting of the School Board and Board of Commissioners on Aug. 17, 2016, board member Rick Wood asked about an auxiliary gym. “Chad Roberson said there is an auxiliary gym that has the capacity of 250. The auxiliary gym is up one story and sits on top of the locker rooms. New gymnasium capacity is around 1000,” according to minutes of the meeting.
At another point in the August 2016 meeting, Roberson told the board, “Currently option 3 (the option the commissioners authorized) includes 2 gyms, an auditorium to serve the entire student body and room to grow in the core components,” according to minutes of the meeting.
Commissioner Charlie Messer “asked if the projected number is about 50 million. Chad Roberson said we are at 52,600,000. … Commissioner Grady Hawkins moved that their staff direct the architects to move forward with the plans presented at this time.”

Carey O’Cain, a retired construction company executive who supports a combined HHS renovation and new construction plan, pointed out in an interview this week that he knew the $52 million cost did not include a second gym. Indeed, minutes from that same joint meeting, in August 2016, show that O’Cain quoted the Clark Nexsen numbers as $53 million plus “$10m additional gym.”

After O'Cain's presentation, a commissioner sought to clarify the total construction cost that the county's architect of record, Clark Nexsen, was projecting and what that cost would cover.

"The number that has been attributed to Clark Nexsen is $76 million," a commissioner said, according to the minutes. "Is that the correct number? Mr. Roberson responded the current program that Clark Nexsen is doing has two gyms, and an auditorium with 1,000 seats is $52.2 million. There is no money in the Stillwell building."

O'Cain points out now that his higher cost projections were right all along.

“We knew that it was in the 60s,” O’Cain said this week. “If the board of commissioners didn’t want to acknowledge that, I don’t understand that. I was in the meeting when they asked does this include 900-seat auditorium and an extra gym. They said it would cost $10 million more. We knew it. Why the hell didn’t they know it?”

The Hendersonville City Council also heard a different figure for the total square footage than the one the county is using now. County officials acknowledge that at the City Council meeting, the zoning application sought approval for all the potential buildings on the site — the auxiliary gym and larger auditorium — even if those were not covered by the $52.6 million project the commissioners had authorized.

“Mr. Roberson stated he does not know the exact square footage of the existing buildings that are there but are somewhere above 185,000 square feet,” according to City Council minutes of the May 4, 2017, meeting. “Council Member Smith stated the plan is 225,000 plus the Stillwell Building. Mr. Roberson stated the new facility is 190,000 square feet.”