By Paul Gable
The Horry County Schools Board of Education will vote on awarding building contracts for five new schools at a special meeting tonight.
This should have already occurred, but bureaucratic interference slowed the process down since the board voted October 12, 2015 to begin negotiations for all five projects with First Floor Energy Positive, the top rated construction team from an earlier selection process.
Thompson Turner Construction and M.B. Kahn are second and third rated teams, respectively and were again included in the process in the past two weeks when bureaucracy took over.
The Horry County Schools board expressed an interest in building energy positive schools when the Request for Proposals for these five projects was reissued earlier this year.
First Floor Energy Positive is the only one of the three finalist teams to have already constructed energy positive schools. In fact, it is the only team in the United States to have designed, constructed and operated energy positive schools.
Sandy Grove Middle School in North Carolina was the first energy positive school built by First Floor Energy Positive. It generated 42% more energy than it consumed in its first year of operation. The excess energy was sold to the local power grid.
The other two North Carolina schools in operation have produced similar savings.
Based on the experience of the three schools in North Carolina, it can be projected that Horry County Schools and taxpayers can save $100 million in utility costs over the 40-year lifespan of these five schools.
These are not hollow projections. First Floor Energy Positive is the only one of the three finalist teams who can guarantee, via performance bond, that their school buildings will generate more energy on-site than they will consume.
According to several sources, First Floor Energy Positive is the only one of the three teams to have submitted a proposal that met all of the requirements of the district RFP. It is the only team that exceeded the conceptual design by adding important extras that were not included by the other two teams.
Best of all, one Horry County general contractor is included on the team and at least 70% of the sub-contracting dollars will be spent with Horry County businesses, allowing school tax dollars to benefit the local economy.
First Floor Energy Positive is so far ahead in this building concept the contracts for all five schools should already been signed.
Several sources familiar with the negotiations have said it is possible First Floor Energy Positive will receive contracts for four of the schools with the remaining contract possibly going to one of the other teams.
The first question that must be asked is why does Horry County Schools want to experience only 80% of the projected energy savings rather than 100%?
Is this how the board wishes to exercise its fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers?
There are rumors of behind the scenes bureaucratic and political maneuvering to make this split in order to belay the possibility of a protest to the contract award notices.
But, that doesn’t make any sense. If you award all five contracts to the strongest team, you have the best defense against any protest.
It is hoped all 12 members of the Horry County Schools Board of Education will be present for this important vote because it includes considerations important to the entire school district.
Each school board member should have his or her vote on record unless illness forces absence or a possible conflict of interest forces recusal.