Stanly school board names new bid winner for Endy project

J.M. Cope has been awarded the construction job by the school district

ALBEMARLE — The Stanly County Board of Education has changed its bid winner for a classroom expansion project at Endy Elementary School.

In a unanimous vote at the school board’s meeting on April 10, board members approved J.M. Cope’s bid of $3.982 million to build upwards of 10 new classrooms at the school, which has been described by Stanly County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis as being “at 110% capacity.”

Last August, the Stanly County Board of Commissioners authorized Stanly County Schools (SCS) to accept bids for new Endy classrooms, green-lighting a bidding process that showed its results roughly seven months later at the board’s meeting last month.

The contract was initially awarded to Hoss Construction with a bid of $4.109 million, a higher price than some competing bids.

Other interested companies included H.M. Kern ($3.848m), J.M. Cope ($3.982m), O’Connor ($4.023m), Stokes Construction ($4.172m) and Warton Smith ($4.335m).

Hoping to learn more about how the school board decided on its bid winner, the Stanly commissioners placed an Endy budget amendment on the agenda of its April 1 meeting. However, the commissioners were forced to remove the item from its agenda when SCS did not provide a representative to attend the meeting.

Despite the no-show from the school district, the board learned in the process that the lowest bidder — H.M. Kern — had officially withdrawn its bid after meeting with SCS, leaving J.M. Cope with the new lowest bid.

“This is something that we are all passionate about,” Commissioner Brandon King said. “But we also have to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars. We’ve asked for transparency on this issue. This was on the meeting agenda last time and they couldn’t get anybody here.”

It was later revealed that the superintendent and SCS facilities committee had reconvened to decide between its initial choice in Hoss or one of the lower bidders in Cope and O’Connor.

“After the meeting and hearing our concerns, (Kern) withdrew their bid, and we released their bond,” Dennis said on April 10. “After having conversations and receiving additional information, we feel confident J.M. Cope was the lowest responsible bidder as it pertains to quality, time and price.”

Multiple board members mentioned that cost was not the only factor in deciding which construction company to approve, citing an emphasis on the overall quality of results for the Endy project.

“The general statute does not state just the lowest bidder. It provides some other variables for things like quality, performance, time and responsiveness,” Board Member Dustin Lisk said. “Cheap is what got us here. Cheap is what puts us 105th in local funding. If you combine federal and state funding, we’re 112th out of 115 districts. We are almost dead last. Cheap is what didn’t build a high school in 2005 for less than $25 million on $60 million worth of revenue in the county.”

Vice Chairman Bill Sorensen echoed Lisk’s sentiments, adding the students in Stanly County deserved classrooms that the county could be proud of going forward.

“What we’re doing to our kids is exposing them to the rain,” Sorensen said. “The rain’s going to come and it’s going to get inside the house. If we stay at 105 out of 115 in funding our kids, we’re begging for flooding and we’re begging for bad things to happen.”

The school board is scheduled to hold its next regular meeting on May 7 at 6:15 p.m. inside the Gene McIntyre Meeting Room at Stanly County Commons.