By Paul Gable
Four members of the Horry County Schools Board of Education were present at a special meeting of the Horry County Republican Party last week to provide information on the recent awarding of five contracts to First Floor Energy Positive for new, energy positive schools.
This is an issue that still resonates in local media because First Floor Energy Positive had the highest total cost for their proposals for the five schools.
What seems to be missing from the local conversation is that the process used to select First Floor Energy Positive focused on building energy positive schools. This means energy savings in future years must be factored into the equation.
Will there be significant energy savings? There have been from schools built by First Floor in North Carolina.
Several days after the meeting, I heard an interview with a HCGOP member who, several times, referred to the contracts going to the “highest bid.”
First of all, these were not bids, they were proposals.
Later in the interview, it was correctly stateed that the school board basically got three conceptual proposals that were presented by the three finalist contractors. He correctly stated that the three contractors were not bidding on a design submitted by the school district.
These are key points that have been missed often in the ongoing discussion about these contract awards.
These were not design-bid-build contracts where the school district develops a design that is then bid on with the contract generally going to the lowest bidder.
These were design-build proposals that were developed by the individual contractors within overall specifications and requirements of the school district.
Several members of the selection committee for HCS said First Floor Energy Positive was the only one of the three finalist contractors to meet all of the requirements in their designs.
Does this mean that other proposals were lower in cost because they left out things First Floor didn’t? This is not a question that has been asked by local media who has seemed to take a negative view on the selection of First Floor.
Several sources familiar with the school projects told me last week that Horry County Schools is currently in negotiation with Santee Cooper for the sale of excess power generated by the schools to the utility.
However, even if the schools do not generate excess power, something they are doing in North Carolina, if they produce enough power for individual use, I am told the energy savings for this type of school is approximately $30,000 per month. That is a total energy savings of $1.8 million per year for the five schools.
Of the three finalist contracting teams, First Floor Energy Positive is the only one to have built energy positive schools. Its Sandy Grove Middle School in North Carolina was named the best k-12 education project in the nation in 2013 by Engineering News and Record, a national construction industry magazine.
Somehow, this never gets mentioned in the local conversation.