Irene damage tallied

Published 12:40 am Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson (left) speaks, and Commissioner Jay McRoy listens, Tuesday night before a joint meeting of the commissioners and the Beaufort County Board of Education in a school-system garage. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

 Two boards mull costs from August storm

Hurricane Irene could cost Beaufort County Schools $546,593 in property damages not covered by insurance or reimbursed by the federal government.

This was the warning BCS central-office officials delivered to the Beaufort County Board of Education during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.

That same message was shared later that night during a joint session with the Beaufort County commissioners.

The school system may have to dip into unallocated fund balance — money that shakes out of the budget after expenditures — to cover the projected repair costs.

The better than half-million-dollar figure represents a worst-case scenario that factors in the possibility of no cost-covering help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, advised Patrick Abele, the school system’s executive director for learning services.

The system awaits final word on FEMA’s contributions to the storm-battered schools’ recovery.

Estimates obtained by the system show the biggest single bill for Irene-related damage is at Bath Elementary School, which sustained major water damage during the storm.

Fixes on the list include gym-roof replacement at Chocowinity Middle School, structural and electrical work at the Beaufort County Ed Tech Center, addressing cafeteria and art-room flood damage at S.W. Snowden Elementary School and settling up on the bill for wind-driven water damage at Washington High School.

“Again, that’s the worst-case scenario,” BCS Superintendent Don Phipps told the school board, adding it’s hoped the final accounting won’t reach the maximum estimates.

“We tried to put these numbers out so that you can get an idea of how we’re planning and what we’re trying to do,” Phipps said.

The board didn’t approve the installation of motorized plastic bleachers to replace waterlogged wood bleachers at Chocowinity Middle School, citing the higher cost for those bleachers. The board voted 8-1 to OK lower-cost, nonmotorized plastic bleachers.

Board member Robert Belcher cast the sole dissenting vote.

In choosing the nonmotorized bleachers — to be pulled out manually to allow for seating at games and other events — the board reduced the bleacher-replacement cost from roughly $65,000 to about $52,000.

“We all would like to ride in a Cadillac, but sometimes we’ve got to ride in a Chevrolet,” said board Chairman Mac Hodges.

Later, in the joint meeting with the commissioners, Phipps explained school officials wanted to keep the county board informed about appropriations for these projects.

After some discussion, all seven commissioners voted unanimously to support the bleacher-replacement already approved by the school board.

“I think your approach is well based,” Commissioner Al Klemm told Phipps and his colleagues. “I think you’re doing the right thing.”