By Bill Short
The Millington School Board has sent two letters to District 1 Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland responding to his recent questions regarding a roofing project.
In the first letter, dated Oct. 1, Board Chairman Greg Ritter recalled that, at its May 12 meeting, the county commission adopted a resolution that appropriated funding for the Shelby County Schools’ 2014 Capital Improvements Program.
Exhibit B attached to the resolution specified $1.1 million for a “single-ply roof replacement” on the Millington Central High School Gymnasium and the Freshmen Academy.
Ritter stated that, in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated Section 12-4-107, the Millington school district administrators sought “qualifications and experience data” from “at least four” architectural firms licensed in the state.
He noted that, after evaluating the firms’ statements and conducting discussions with them, the administrators determined that TLM Associates Inc. of Jackson was qualified to provide the required services for the “lowest and best cost.” And at its Aug. 4 regular monthly meeting, the board unanimously approved a contract with TLM.
On Aug. 26 and Sept. 2, respectively, the Shelby County and Millington school boards approved an agreement regarding the terms by which the roofing project would proceed.
Ritter stated that, in the project specifications, TLM identified the Garland Modified Bitumen roofing system as “best for the pre-existing conditions” at the high school. He also noted that the system “carries a strong warranty” for a minimum 20-year period.
Because “multiple” contractors were “ready and willing” to bid on the project according to the specifications for the Garland system, Ritter stated that TLM’s recommendation did not “unduly restrict competition.”
But he noted that, when the school district administrators learned of the existence of the Tremco roofing system, they requested an evaluation by TLM, which concluded that it is “comparable” to the Garland system.
So, the board chairman said contractors would be informed that the specifications are “altered,” and that the district “welcomes” bids that use either system.
He noted that, on Sept. 25, the school district administrators conducted a “bid specification meeting” to inform contractors of the requirements to bid on the roofing project.
Because the meeting did not involve a “governing body” as defined by T.C.A. Section 8-44-102, Ritter said it was not legally required to be open to the public.
“Representatives of the public and, specifically, representatives of the media were not invited or expected to attend,” he wrote. “Members of the media who were actively filming in the meeting room without permission and without identifying themselves were asked to leave.”
In an Oct. 6 letter addressed to Ritter and Dr. David Roper, superintendent of Millington Municipal Schools, Roland stated that the $1.1 million would not be available to the district if he had been unable to persuade his fellow commissioners to give all the municipal school systems money for Capital Improvements Projects that are “not required” under the Average Daily Attendance funding formula for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years.
If the school board and superintendent do not desire to “welcome” his oversight, Roland said, he will “certainly remember” that as the commission considers CIP funding for the 2015 fiscal year budget.
The commissioner said Ritter had satisfied only one of the “10 separate issues” related to the requests he submitted under the Tennessee Freedom of Information Act.
So, in an Oct. 10 letter, he asked Roper to send him additional information, including all e-mails, faxes, texts and written correspondence between TLM and any roofing manufacturers since Feb. 1.
In a letter signed by all seven school board members, which Roland received on Oct. 20, they expressed a desire to “clear the air” regarding the district’s efforts to complete the roof repairs and to “improve communication” with him.
Because the architect discovered “existing water damage issues” on the buildings, the board members said he determined that “special materials” would be necessary to prevent future damage and additional costs.
They said it is their “understanding” that TLM “specifically recommended” the Garland system for its “product” and not because of any “special relationship” between the architectural firm and the roofing company.
The board members also cited their “understanding” that, although the architect used “information” from Garland, he designed the project and “stamped the final plans and specifications” himself.
They recalled that, after the Sept. 25 “pre-bid meeting,” Roland “and others” informed the district of the Tremco system’s availability, and that its inclusion would expand the number of competitive bidders on the project.
“The district stopped the bidding process at that point and asked the architect to analyze that possibility,” they wrote. “As a result, the district is now including Garland, Tremco or any other equal roofing systems in the plans and specifications.”
They noted that, when the bidding process is concluded, the district will select the “lowest and best” bidder to complete the roofing project.
Because they have “modified” the process to address Roland’s concerns of “non-competitiveness,” the board members said they plan to move past this “time of miscommunication and misunderstanding.”
During a telephone interview Monday morning, Roland said that, when the municipal school systems receive money from the county, they are required to follow the “rules and regulations” set by the county for its use.
He acknowledged that the Millington school district administrators have “correctly” re-advertised for bids on the roof repair work. But he said they should also re-advertise for bids from architectural firms to prepare the project specifications.
Roland noted that the county commission did not have to give the Millington school system “anything” for the 2014 fiscal year.
“We’re going to do the same thing for 2015, because there’s no ADA money there,” he said. “They don’t start getting their ADA money until 2016.”
If the county commission gives Shelby County Schools $1 million in 2016, Roland said, the Millington school system will receive only 2 percent of that. So, the local district needs to obtain all the money it can now.
“I’m trying to get this done because, in 2016, this is going to be their problem,” he concluded. “It’s my problem now. But in 2016, all I’m responsible for is their ADA share.”