Judge: Move on school case

Sep. 27, 2013 @ 11:29 AM

As the trial between the Union County Board of Education and the Union County Board of County Commissioners nears the end of its seventh week, Judge Erwin Spainhour told the attorneys that they would be done by next week. 

“We need to move this case,” Spainhour said Thursday morning. “I’ve been as patient as I possibly can be.” 

Spainhour said the jury was tired and it was time to move on. He said there would be no more repetitive or repeat questions. 

This followed a note given to the judge by one of the jurors. The note asked what would happen if a juror got sick and asked if there should be safety concerns among the jurors. 

When the jury returned, Spainhour told them that because it is not a criminal court case, it is not mandatory that 12 jurors be present at once. If someone gets sick, they could either recess until the juror is better or make an agreement about a different number. With regard to safety, Spainhour said he does not feel there is a safety risk involved in this case. He told the jurors he does not see any possible safety issue, but if he has any inkling otherwise, he will take appropriate actions. 

Roofing Consultant Nelson Hall continued his testimony Wednesday and Thursday morning. Wednesday the jurors received a second large binder to use for the evidence presented. 

Hall testified about specific roofing projects that needed attention, including Monroe High School, Piedmont High School, Sun Valley High School, Indian Trail Elementary School and Wesley Chapel Elementary School Wednesday morning. 

Hall testified that Monroe High School needed about 16,900 square feet of roofing replaced on the north building. He said the project was contained in the board of education’s request. 

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Hall testified that the roof was currently leaking, had been repaired and was still leaking. He said there were patches on top of patches on the roof, which he categorizes as a failed roof. 

Hall said that patches installed around the plumbing vents were already or close to “complete failure” mode and they had found cracks and holes in the roof membrane. 

School Board Attorney Brian Shaw asked what recommendation Hall had made about the roof in his 2007-2008 roofing audit. Hall said his recommendation was that it had five to six service years left and to repair it in the 2012-2013 school year. 

“It is an immediate need,” Hall said. 

Shaw then asked about Piedmont High School.

“Those roofs need to be replaced as soon as possible,” Hall said. 

Hall testified that parts of the Piedmont High School roof were about 30 years old. He was looking at photos of damage on the roof and identifying insulation. In one photo, Hall said he could not be certain but would “bet his shirt” the insulation was asbestos, which, he said had not been used by the district in about 30 years. 

In the 2007-2008 roofing audit, Hall said that parts of the Piedmont High School roof needed to be replaced in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Hall added that there were three roof sets that need to be replaced as soon as possible. 

Sun Valley High School also needed a partial re-roofing for about 23,000 square feet. Hall testified that it should be replaced as soon as possible. He said there were holes in the membrane, pieces that had been laminated together were coming apart, there was a split in the roof edge and more damage. 

He noted that Sun Valley High School’s roof is an unusual shape, coming up to a point. 

Some areas were in “immediate” need of replacement at this point in time, Hall testified. 

Like Piedmont High School, the Sun Valley High School roof areas were given a three to four year remaining life in 2008 and it was recommended those areas be re-roofed in the 2009 to 2010 fiscal year. 

Indian Trail and Wesley Chapel Elementary School were also in similar condition. Hall said areas on those roofs also needed to be replaced as soon as possible.

In 2008-2009, the audit recommended an immediate replacement for Indian Trail Elementary. 

Board of County Commissioners attorney Ligon Bundy began his cross-examination Wednesday afternoon and continued Thursday morning. 

Bundy asked about a discrepancy on the line-item request versus a drawing and outline. One was labeled technical services, while the building was labeled technology services. 

Hall said he did not know where that difference in labeling occurred and he did not know if the building was where the technology was housed. He knew the location of the building, but not what was inside of it. 

Bundy asked Hall if he had ever given a report to the full board of education or facilities committee about the roofs. Hall said no, but that he would be willing to do that. 

Bundy asked if all of the audits were for the board of education, which Hall said they were. Bundy asked if the reason he did not provide the audits to the board of county commissioners was because they were requested by the board of education and Hall said he was not sure about the power structure. 

When Bundy asked if Hall had given the audits or a presentation to the board of county commissioners, Hall said no, but that he was willing to do so. 

Bundy asked about maintenance work being done in-house by Union County Public Schools maintenance staff, versus outside contracting. Hall said he did not think everything could be done by the maintenance team because there were not enough workers. He said some could be done in-house, but some would have to be outsourced. 

Hall confirmed his testimony Wednesday that new roofs would also be cost-saving because they would be more energy efficient. Bundy asked if he was advocating replace roofs that were in good condition for energy efficiency and Hall said he was not advocating that. 

Bundy asked about Hall’s recommendation standard for re-roofing, that the roof must leak, have been repaired and still leak and that there must be patches on patches. Bundy asked if that was his idea or the board of education’s idea. 

Hall said it was his idea to set that standard because he knew at some point in time “someone like you” would be asking questions like this. 

Bundy had Hall review some of the photos of roofs from different schools. He also clarified Hall’s job as a consultant and what he was paid to do. 

In his redirect, Shaw asked about the needs of Forest Hills High Schools and if the amount requested by the board of education would cover the needs outlined in the capital facilities study and new needs, Hall said the request was pretty close. 

Hall said that going through the capital facilities study, he saw about $12 million in needs, but given inflation and the time that has passed, those values should be increased by about 25 percent. 

Thursday afternoon Forest Hills High School Principal Kevin Plue took the stand to testify. The trial will continue Friday and reconvene Monday.