School Bond Construction Committee Commences Work

School Bond Construction Committee Commences Work
Posted on 03/27/2019

School Bond Construction Committee Commences Work

March 26, 2019


The process of selecting architects and construction managers for school bond construction in Transylvania County Schools has begun.

Acting on the $68 million bond passed in November 2018, the Transylvania County Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners forged an interlocal agency agreement for the school board to establish a School Bond Construction Committee. The agreement, signed in February, assigned the school board to govern construction and renovation at Brevard High School, Rosman Middle School, and Rosman High School.

The committee convened for its first meeting Tuesday, March 19, at the Education Center on Rosenwald Lane in Brevard, to review their responsibilities as assigned by the two boards, set meeting dates, and outline the process for evaluating architectural and construction manager at risk (CMAR) firms before submitting their recommendations to the Board of Education.

Membership of the committee, as defined by the agreement, includes two school board members, two school staff (selected by the Superintendent, who may be one of the two members), two county commissioners, and the school finance officer. The meetings are public, and subject to all the provisions of the North Carolina Open Meetings Law.

Members in attendance included Tawny McCoy and Courtney Domokur (school board), Dr. Jeff McDaris and teacher Jake Raines (school staff), Mike Hawkins and Jason Chappell (county commission board), and school finance officer Norris Barger, with school board attorney Chris Campbell.

Mr. Barger chaired the committee and led a discussion of the upcoming meeting schedule and responsibilities of the school bond construction committee. The interlocal agency agreement designated monthly meetings, where Dr. McDaris and Mr. Barger will update committee members on the project. To prepare for each meeting, they will also send a written status report at least one week in advance to members of the committee.

The primary task of the committee is to interview architectural and CMAR firms, in order to decide their top three choices in each category, then submit those non-binding recommendations to the Board of Education as delegates of the superintendent. If multiple construction options are available for Brevard High School, Rosman Middle and High Schools, or both sites, the committee will also make a non-binding recommendation to the school board concerning those options.

To help the committee select its top three architectural and CMAR firms, a request for qualifications (RFQ) process was announced in February to solicit application. Eight architectural and five CMAR firms submitted responsive replies to the RFQ.

Committee members decided on April 2 and April 4 as the best times to interview these firms. The committee will interview individual architectural firms on April 2, from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 to 9:30 p.m., then interview CMAR firms on April 4, from 1:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

All the interviews will be held at the Education Center on Rosenwald Lane in Brevard. Interviews are official meetings of the school bond construction committee, which are open to the public.

There may be discussion by committee members after the interviews on April 2 and April 4, but no decisions or recommendations are expected from the committee immediately following either set of interviews. Further discussion may take place at a future committee meeting.

Members discussed various aspects of selecting architectural and CMAR firms to perform school bond construction. While some firms submitted proposals specifically to cover both sites in Brevard and Rosman, the school board will make the final determination of how many of each firm to select and how to assign their respective duties, after receiving recommendations from the committee.

Specific questions arose about the benefits of hiring a construction manager at risk, in contrast with the better-known “design-bid-build” process. School board attorney Chris Campbell explained that the CMAR process has been used for many years in western North Carolina, notably in Buncombe County Schools. Using a CMAR should prevent surprises during the budget, design, and building phases of the school bond construction project.

The school board would begin by hiring or assigning one or more architects and informing them that a CMAR will also be hired. A third party, a construction cost estimator, would also be hired to collaborate and regulate the process with the other two parties.

Campbell reminded the committee that with school bond proceeds set by Transylvania County voters at $68 million for Brevard and Rosman, an architectural firm will design projects with a guaranteed maximum price (GMP), a distinctive feature of hiring a CMAR to build the schools.

During the facilities planning study completed from 2015 to 2017, the school board previewed concept drawings and budget proposals for both sites from Clark Nexsen, an Asheville architectural firm that authored the study. Soft costs were taken into account for the master plan and conceptual drawings, including fees and costs for design, estimators, escalation due to increased construction costs over time, and any other contingencies.

Campbell reiterated that the GMP is precisely that, a guaranteed maximum price for the whole project, including all fees. As opposed to the bid process, there are no cost overruns since the top price is set by contract, barring any unforeseen discoveries about the building site itself.

Unlike the bid-build phase of other projects, the CMAR receives a portion of their fee before construction and only receives full payment at the end of the project, when their entire operation is complete at the building site. Either the project ends on time and on budget, or the CMAR begins to cut into their own profits, not the owner's budget for the project.

As Campbell explained, this requires the architect, CMAR, and cost estimator to work closely together in order to deliver a project that accounts for any fees or unforeseen costs before the building starts. If the project is completed below the agreed cost, budgeted capital funds may also be used to enhance the new site with furniture, fixtures, and equipment, including technology.

Updates and links to the ongoing work of the School Bond Construction Committee of the Transylvania County Board of Education will be posted online at the school bond website:, and all agendas and minutes for the Board of Education are online at:

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Photo: The Transylvania County Board of Education School Bond Construction Committee met for the first time on March 19. Members include commissioners, school board members, school staff, and the school finance officer.

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