At the school board meeting September 28, the discussion agenda included the topic of District Construction. Mike Montgomery was asked to present the actual cost the district incurred to correct the construction deficiencies in the 2008 referendum projects. The only projects with problems were the renovation projects at Chapin High School and Irmo High School. Mr. Montgomery served as the attorney for the district and handled the mediation and settlement discussions for both projects. The same construction management firm and contractor were in charge of renovations for both high schools.

Here is the accurate story of each of the ten 2008 referendum projects and lists: District Damages from the lawsuit to block the Chapin High School Renovation, Costs to Correct Construction Deficiencies, and Capital Invested in the Derrick Pond Site. The chart also includes the cost to correct construction deficiencies at one pre- referendum project, Oak Pointe Elementary School. Of the ten referendum projects only Chapin High School incurred costs to correct deficiencies in the amount of $22,056. By far, the largest cost to taxpayers was the $11,595,044 resulting from the lawsuit to block the renovations at Chapin High School. The second largest cost was the investment in the Derrick Pond Site. While the Derrick Pond site could be used for another purpose or could be resold, that invested capital in a project being put on hold is the result of someone interfering with the project to stop construction. The conclusion is clear the District spent very little correcting deficiencies, less than $25,000 at one site, Chapin High School. By far the largest unanticipated costs to taxpayers comes from the projects where people opposed the construction projects (Chapin High School and Derrick Pond Site). This is in sharp contrast to prior claims by Mr. Loveless that the District spent millions of dollars of taxpayer’ dollars correcting construction deficiencies.

At the meeting, Mr. Loveless complained there were many problems with the construction at various schools yet the District’s construction consultant had not seen any evidence of the deficiencies claimed by Mr. Loveless. Mr. Loveless did not provide any evidence to support his claims. The school district took the purported claims of possible electrical problems seriously and said they would investigate the claims for safety purposes.

Finally, the Derrick Pond Site has been the subject of much criticism by the public and taxpayers, including Jan Hammond and Ken Loveless, alleging the District bought property it could not use for a school site. That property was intended for an elementary school until outside interference resulted in a breach of the contract the District had for the purchase of additional property needed for the frontage area. Because of the outside interference, the school district chose not to build the elementary school at that time. The school district still owns the property which can be used for other space needs in the district or sold in an attempt to recoup some of the losses incurred. 

The minutes from the April 12, 2010 meeting show how the school board voted to purchase the Derrick Pond property. Please note the following board members at that time voted to approve the purchase of the land:

Motion made by Beth Hutchison

Second of motion by Jan Hammond

Voting in favoring of purchasing the property included: Carol Sloop, Jan Hammond, Roberta Ferrell, Ellen Baumgardner, Beth Hutchison and Ed White.  Robert Gantt abstained from the vote.

It is important to note who voted to purchase the property because some of these people have publicly criticized the board and school district for purchasing the property that they voted for.

The purpose of the presentation at the board meeting was to provide the public the true unanticipated costs of these projects with an explanation of what happened in each of the three cases. Misinformation and gross allegations of millions of dollars of waste has been rumored over the years, despite repeated attempts to report the facts.

One such erroneous claim made by Ken Loveless in a Facebook post on March 7, 2020.

It is important that the public be presented the facts as documented by district documents and legal documents, shown in the references on the chart. The public should demand evidence from the people who make allegations against the District’s safety practices, expenditures, construction and land purchases. 

Beth Hutchison

District Five School Board