Officials debate field house|Project’s cost estimated at $519,000

Published 10:30 pm Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Staff Writer

Beaufort County officials expressed consternation Tuesday night during a joint meeting with the school board on budget overruns on a new field house for Northside High School.
“Budgets are budgets,” said Commissioner Hood Richardson. “They’re to be lived within. You know what would happen if you tried this in American industry anywhere? You’d have a pink slip?”
Funding for the field house is a sensitive subject, in part because the Beaufort County Board of Education and Beaufort County Board of Commissioners have a funding agreement as a result of a lawsuit involving the two boards. The lawsuit is being decided by the N.C. Supreme Court.
By the terms of the agreement, the schools get a set amount of funding for buildings each year from the county, and the two boards discuss how it will be spent.
The school board initially allocated $175,000 from the current fiscal year’s building fund and planned to raise other funds from private donors, said school board Chairman Robert Belcher.
“As time passed, we realized that the deep pockets were not … here,” he said.
As a result, the school board wants to receive more than $300,000 in additional funds from the county during the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. When county commissioners heard that proposal at a joint meeting of the boards at Southside High School earlier this month, some of them were worried, so the boards agreed to the joint meeting at Northside.
When the officials arrived at the site of the proposed field house, Richardson said he was surprised that it would be an addition to the school, not a free-standing structure.
“Apparently, if you don’t tell the truth for a good thing, that’s not bad,” he said.
Schools officials later said that adding on to the existing school is cheaper than building a separate facility.
Richardson also was upset that a contract for the new weightroom/locker-room facility has been awarded and work on the ground where the new building is expected to stand has started.
“There’s some candor missing in here,” he said.
The group also toured John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School and looked at new classroom additions and the facility’s library. The library’s replacement is the school system’s biggest capital project planned for the coming fiscal year.