DCSD Board of Education pumps the brakes on mobile unit project

Joel Carter and Dale Collier talk about the construction projects underway in the Darlington County School District.
Photo by Melissa Rollins

By Melissa Rollins, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

During a Darlington County School District Board of Education worksession Oct. 23, board members asked for clarification on a mobile unit project at Carolina Elementary School. They then asked for the project to be re-evaluated.

As presented by Dale Collier of the Brownstone Construction Group, the project would install three new portables on the Carolina Elementary campus. The portables would have ramps and sidewalks to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The project budget is $1.5 million.

None of the board members present, Jamie Morphis, Dr. Thelma Dawson, Wanda Hassler, Warren Jeffords and Connell Delaine, could explain when the project was approved or why so much money was being spent on portable classrooms when the district was trying to get away from using them.

“Couldn’t you build three classrooms cheaper than putting three portables?” Jeffords asked.

Collier said that he believed they could.

“A million and a half dollars,” said board chairman Jamie Morphis. “Who came up with this? We said we didn’t want any more mobiles. We couldn’t build three classrooms for a million and a half dollars?”

Collier said that the project was something that his group was given when they were hired as project managers for the district.

“This project was already in design and underway,” Collier said. “We inherited it.”

During the last regular meeting, board member Connell Delaine asked about the mobile units being put on the Carolina campus. During the work session he reiterated his concern.

“That was my question at the last meeting, about the mobiles,” Delaine said. “I was told that we’re not doing mobiles, we’re replacing mobiles, upgrading mobiles or whatever. I know we didn’t have a meeting discussion about that million something on mobiles.”

Several board members echoed Delaine’s comments.

“I don’t know this project,” Hassler said. “I’m assuming that this was prior to my (coming on the board). I have no recollection of this plan.”

Morphis said that he has been on the board over a decade and he has no recollection of any discussion of the project either.

“I’ve been here 16 years,” Morphis said. “I don’t remember the discussion of mobile units. I can’t imagine someone wanting mobiles for a million six when we could have a brick and mortar structure added on. This blew my mind. I know that we’re way behind with our five million (in annual bond projects) and we’re trying to catch up but I don’t ever recall this board discussing (this).”

Maintenance and Operations Director Ervin McElveen said that the project was submitted and approved several years ago.

Collier said that the project was still only in the design phase and that other options could be evaluated to meet the needs of the school without spending so much money on external portable structures.

Author: Duane Childers

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