Audit shows buildings in need of repair

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 26, 2017

For two months contract workers conducted a complete audit of the condition of all buildings and facilities within the Pearl River County School District. NewPath Strategy Consultant Warren Bowen presented the Board with the findings Monday night.
Bowen began his presentation by commending the former maintenance staff for their efforts to extend the lifespan of the buildings, some of which are up to 60-years-old.
“The maintenance staff has done a great job at extending the life of the buildings to a point that they have gone beyond the years of which they were designed to last. I tip my hat to them,” Bowen said.
However, he said that there is only so much that can be done to maintain the integrity of those buildings and safety is becoming a major concern.
“I didn’t expect the safety findings to be this thick,” Bowen said, holding up the three to four inch thick binder containing the research he conducted on the safety of the buildings. “That does not mean that your maintenance staff and leadership are doing a bad job, things are just changing in society and if you are not up-to-date with those requirements and codes, you end up falling behind.”
Bowen went on to give specific details of areas that needed upgrades to meet safety requirements.
A major concern was noted in the old administration building on the McNeill campus, where he was warned by staff not to walk in a particular corner because the floor might give out. During his inspection, Bowen found he could easily tear through the floor with his bare hands, he told the Board.
“I didn’t use a single tool to get underneath those buildings. I just grabbed what I could and was able to dig my way through,” he said.
When District staff discovered the problem, 13 employees that worked in that building were relocated to the old library and building D, PRC Superintendent Alan Lumpkin said.
In part, he said the damage is due to the vulnerability of flooding on the campus. Bowen said water is not draining properly due to roof and wall failures and deteriorating gutters.
“Listen, the Hoover Dam leaks every day, and its concrete is as thick as this building. Why? Because you have to control the drainage properly in order to control the expansion and contraction of the soil,” he said.
He went on to describe how if water drainage is not controlled, the Upper and Lower Elementary facilities will suffer, which is what he saw while conducting the audit.
After showing pictures and videos of his findings, Bowen suggested the Board prioritize repairs for the problems he found at the McNeill campus.
“The Admin building must be dealt with. Second, or I should say tied with first, is the cafeteria,” he said.
Though the cafeteria is structurally sound, he said, “It’s almost impossible to do what [Myra Smith] is doing with the space she has to work with.”
Currently, PRC Food Service Director Sheila Amacker said Smith prepares over 600 breakfasts every school day in 30 minutes. About 1,120 students are served lunch per day.
Second on Bowen’s priority list was the auditorium and G building, which houses four classrooms and four offices and require structural renovations and drainage control.
Thirdly, Bowen said he would focus on the safety of the steep ramps, which are not ADA approved, spotty sidewalks and other construction projects at both campuses.
The same concerns were found at the Carriere campus. Bowen said these concerns are on the same priority level as McNeill.
“The cost [to maintain our facilities] is going to come from somewhere, and it’s going to affect our budget. That’s the piece that we don’t like to talk about, but unfortunately the piece that we have to talk about,” Lumpkin said. “We want a top notch instructional program, we want a top notch maintenance program, we want a top notch custodial program; they are out there and we can get them.”
Bowen said the Safe Room at the Carriere campus will eventually be a major concern because it was allegedly built on a spring, causing flooding beneath and around the structure. However, Lumpkin said the Safe Room is county-owned and any repairs would have to go before the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors.
To end his presentation, Bowen suggested the District begin the process of applying for grants to restore the buildings that could be added to the state’s historical archive list.
“There are some beautiful buildings on these campuses. I have never seen anything like that gym on the elementary campus. That is something to take great pride in,” Bowen said.
Bowen suggested the Board begin budgeting for his suggested renovations, if it decides to go through with them.

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