Horry County Schools Building Projects

By Paul Gable

The Horry County Schools Selection Committee will have another meeting tomorrow regarding the project to build five new schools.

According to sources familiar with the committee, it will be interviewing the three firms still in the selection process, M.B. Kahn Construction, First Floor Energy Positive and Thompson Turner Construction.

The building plan calls for five energy efficient schools to be built with a completion date of all five by August 2017.

According to sources familiar with the committee, the major goal is to select a construction team that will bring the projects to completion on time and within budget.

One of the three finalist teams, M.B. Kahn, had a construction manager contract with Dorchester School District 2 cancelled last year because of increasing costs.

According to Dorchester School District 2 board records, a contract with M.B. Kahn was finalized in June 2013 for Kahn to serve as construction manager of a district building program that included several elementary schools, a middle school and some other improvements.

By March 2014, the same Dorchester School District 2 board voted to terminate the contract with M.B. Kahn.

According to media reports, the decision to terminate the contract was taken after a cost analysis of the project was submitted by Kahn, “the cost had increased significantly from what they said they could do it for.”

Cost increases are always a danger with construction projects. The initial cost estimate for the Horry County Government and Justice Center on Second Avenue in Conway began at around $20 million and was past $40 million when completed.

The Government and Justice Center was one of the projects M.B. Kahn’s Rick Ott pointed to proudly when he was pitching the new airport terminal at Myrtle Beach International to Horry County Council.

I’m not sure a doubling of cost should be pointed to so proudly.

The airport terminal project was one where Horry County Council bought into a project scope that was neither needed nor justified. It started as a $50 million renovation of the old terminal building and ended as a completely new $120 million terminal building and accessories.

Horry County Council bought into a great sales job by Ott, but, every council member who voted to build the new terminal should be forever ashamed of the waste of public dollars they approved.

The decision the Horry County School Board Selection Committee must make is who will bring the projects in on time and at or under budget? Public dollars for school or other public building construction are much more scarce than they have been in the past. Significant cost overruns are not acceptable nor tolerated by voters.

As one school board member, not a member of the committee, said to me recently, “I don’t want a cost of say $35 million for a school to become $40-45 million or more before it is completed.”

Neither do the taxpayers and voters who are charged for the cost!


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