School systems’ roof requests hover over county board
by Chris Berendt Staff Writer
The roofs at five schools — two at Clinton City Schools and three in Sampson County Schools — are in dire need of replacement, leaking to the point where local school officials are quite literally seeking money saved for a rainy day.
City and county school officials provided lists detailing their respective roofing needs as part of budget discussions among the Sampson Board of Commissioners. Clyde Locklear, assistant superintendent for finance/facility for Clinton City Schools, and Anthony Vann, executive director of auxiliary services at Sampson County Schools, spoke to the specific requests earlier this week.
The county schools have submitted a request totaling $452,250, including complete replacement of roofs over gymnasiums at Roseboro Middle, at $141,750; Union Intermediate, at $149,500; and Hobbton High, at $161,000. Vann offered a second. scaled-down option that would tally $249,000, but noted replacement was the best alternative.
City schools’ request, encompassing roofs for L.C. Kerr and Butler Avenue schools, also included two alternatives — $439,920 for shingles, which could last for 25 years, and $544,800 for a metal roof, which comes with aesthetic quirks but would likely have a life close to 40 years, Locklear noted.
Commissioners said they would take the matter under advisement in the coming weeks. The roof issue, and potential funding, is expected to be on the board’s October regular meeting agenda.
“It sounds like it would need to be discussed for sure,” said Commissioner Albert Kirby. “It is something that we obviously need to take seriously. The bad thing about roofs is, once they start to go bad, they don’t get better. I do understand the school systems’ position that it needs to be addressed.”
Kirby said other requests needed to be weighed — this week’s budget session was the first of a monthly schedule of meeting highlighting the budgets and requests of departments and entities countywide — but the requested roof replacements could not be overlooked.
Both Vann and Locklear said the needs were vital, as patching was becoming a futile effort.
Vann said the three county school roofs had not received significant attention in at least the last quarter century.
The city schools prioritized roofing needs and estimated costs through 2020 and Locklear noted that, top on the priority list, were classroom buildings at L.C. Kerr and Butler Avenue Schools. Built in 1992, the roofs continue to lose shingles and leak.
“They are currently in need of repair and replacement, having experienced continued failure through recent rain and wind storms,” Locklear stated. “Our most recent evaluations of these roofs were to determine if it was best to make substantial repairs to these roofs or, due to age and other factors, move forward with replacement. The report recommends replacement due to the age and overall condition of each roof.”
Kirby asked whether the school systems’ roof needs pass what he called Commissioner Jefferson Strickland’s “bucket test.” Kirby alluded to the money approved for two roofs at Sampson Community College for the current budget. Strickland said garbage cans were being used to collect water dripping from the ceiling at the college.
“Are you having to use a bucket to catch the water yet? I see the roofs are affected, but to what degree are the damages at this point?” Kirby inquired. “I know at the community college it was pretty much raining in there.”
“I can tell you the three roofs we asked for on the county side pass the trash can test,” Vann said, noting that a longtime employee of the system said the roofs have been around since before he was working. “He said they had not been replaced or redone since he had been here. He said he had been here for 25 years.”
Vann said the roofs have deteriorated to the point patches no longer hold and structure damage is being seen within the school buildings, which also presents safety hazards for students and faculty.
“We’re to the point where we really need to strip it down and start from scratch,” Vann noted.
The same circumstance is being seen for the city schools.
“And the two that are listed for the city schools, they are leaking from the various rain storms that we’ve had,” added Locklear, pointing out that their system’s roofs were 22 years old. “From the independent report we had done, they are just continuing to deteriorate and our problems are only going to get worse.”
According to finance officer David Clack, there is $1,042,917 that can be used to pay for roofs and other needs, taking the undesignated fund balance less the estimated transfers to pay debt service. Added to that $1.04 million figure, the city schools currently has unallocated roof funds totaling $70,000 from 2010-11.
“We allocated $653,000 last time we did anything, in the 2010-11 year,” said Clack.
In December 2011, the board voted to allocate monies from the school capital reserve funds to the county schools for roof repairs at the old Midway High School, as well as to city schools for brick and mortar and emergency situations. At that time, no specific project was designated for the city schools funds. However, Clinton City Schools in October 2012 requested $80,000 of the $150,000 be authorized for the replacement of the College Street School facility roof, approved by the board.
The capital reserve funds draw from three main sources of revenue, a main one being the Article 42 sales tax, which currently generates a little over $2 million in revenue a year, traditionally used for roof replacement and brick and mortar expenses.
“This fund will be depleting itself every year to where what comes in will be going out,” Clack said. “As long as we have debt service, as long as we have the tax rate where it is at, this fund will go to zero. If you don’t appropriate this whole $1,042,000 , I’m sure another need will come along in a year that will take all of that.”
County manager Ed Causey said the roof requests, totaling close to $900,000 would almost ensure roof requests dry up along with the floors inside the structure, but it was not a given.
“This does not mean that, whether you approve or not approve something tonight, some critical need will not come up next week,” Causey said. “I think our partners have been very diligent in saying if we can meet these needs, we do not anticipate anything that is going to come up in the next two fiscal years. We are hopeful that if we can give consideration to these requests it would be something that would help the school systems and maybe take a little pressure off of us for a while.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.
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