School board must acknowledge construction-related problems

For all our school district’s successes, one unfortunate hallmark of Lexington-Richland 5 is the willingness of certain board members to hurl accusations and insinuations as a way of suppressing unflattering information.

District 5 has had more than its share of missteps over the past several years – persistent problems that must be addressed if we’re to preserve our academic excellence. But some would rather kill the messenger than address the areas where we fall short.

That’s what happened last week, when board member Beth Hutchison took aim at me in a letter in this newspaper. I’m writing to set the record straight.

First, three sitting board members have long asked for a work session to discuss, discover and determine future best business practices. I asked to present an expert so that we could level the playing field. The chair dismissed my request out-of-hand. Instead, leadership took a defensive election-year crouch and went on the attack with its attorney and its construction project representative. The project representative abruptly elected to terminate his contract before the meeting.

A few of the many examples which beg discussion are: The foregone construction at the Derrick Pond site which was abandoned because of lack of due diligence cost the District approximately $1,255,000. We may be stuck with devalued land that may not be worth what we paid.

Contractors at Spring Hill High and The Center were terminated and replaced costing the district approximately $913,000. Policy was set aside when a change order at SHHS and the Center for bad soils of $567,877 was paid without a board approval.

An audit of construction change order practices for which the District paid $60,000 was never put forth for public scrutiny. Board Chair Watson (Hutchison) wrote on June 14, 2014 in an email to other board members: “The main take-away is that our contract with Cummins (construction manager) requires them to prepare all change orders and we do not believe that have lived up to this part of the contract”.

She went on to say in the same email,” I think it reasonable to let Cummins see the Audit of their work since I think our goal is to make sure Cummins corrects their mistakes. A simplified comparison of my thought process when this request was made is that this situation is very much like an editor showing the writer the problems with his manuscript and telling the writer to make the corrections as marked and then resubmit the work.” Yet, the public was not allowed to see the work.

Yet, on April 4, 2014 a change order to Cummings for $518,221.68 was presented in executive session even though the project scope had been reduced by one school, the never built Derrick Pond school. Originally nine projects had been planned but only eight were built under Cummings original contract of $9,000,000.

At Chapin High School where fully one-quarter of the referendum money was spent, problems abounded. The budget had been exceeded by $12,000,000. The contractor claimed $4.2 million in extra costs. The electrical portions of the work were never completed. Warranties were never honored. The District settled its claims with the contractor for an additional $739,693 plus copious attorney fees but the contractor’s performance and payment bond was never called. We are left with an incomplete project still today.

In addition, the District paid $2,831,200. to replace brand new siding worth only $1,350,000. for a net loss of $1,489,200.

Taken at three percent financed over twenty years, just these items above cost the District taxpayers over $8,100,000. And, there are many, many more examples. A future bond referendum is out of the question with this leadership team.

All of the above is 100 percent accurate, easily verifiable, and a matter of public record. I’m publishing it here so readers can have the facts and make up their own minds about who’s telling the truth and who’s misleading them.

Ken Loveless
District Five School Board