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County reports positive news during monthly meetings

Posted on Wednesday, January 31, 2024 at 8:00 am


During the January Bedford County Financial Management Committee meeting, it was reported that the county has achieved more than $1 million in savings on the new Cartwright Elementary School.

The school, located on Fairfield Pike, is under construction. The new elementary school was designed by Kline-Swinney Associates, the county’s architectural firm, and is being built by Bell Construction under a guaranteed maximum price arrangement.

“Cartwright is moving ahead of schedule. We expect keys turned over to the school on June 10, which is one month earlier than we anticipated,” said Jeff Sweeney, owners’ representative for Bedford County government construction projects. The estimated substantial completion date is the first of June with classes starting this fall.

In his report, Sweeney estimated that the building’s exterior is about 90 percent complete and the interior is about 50 percent complete. The interior of the building has a heating and air conditioning system, and a first coat of asphalt has been laid at the site. Primary access to the new school will be from Calsonic Way to alleviate potential traffic on Fairfield Pike.

“I have some very exciting news that we are proud of,” Sweeney said during the meeting. “We are returning $1,036,000 to the county to lower the debt on the school as of Friday afternoon [Jan. 19].”

He explained they made an agreement with Bell Construction to cap their shared savings to them from $420,000 down to $270,000, resulting in $150,000 to the county.

Bell Construction’s contract with the county guaranteed a maximum price which could not be exceeded. The company was to share any savings with the county.

“How that works is the contract we wrote, we would share whatever was left in the contingency on a percentage basis with Bell’s and we renegotiated that Friday afternoon,” said Sweeney.

A county government press release explained that there are many expenses that can pop up during such a large project. So the $39 million Cartwright Elementary project included a contingency fund.

But because of the savings that have been achieved, the county, the architect, and the contractor have agreed to lower that contingency fund by $1,036,000, putting that money back into the county’s coffers and benefiting the taxpayers, the press release explained.

Kline-Swinney also had already agreed to release $80,000 of its design contingency fund back to the county, over and above the $1,036,000.

Some of the savings were the result of repricing products needed for the project, renegotiating the price of the steel needed for the project; and finding suitable soil on site which could be used to replace unsuitable soil (avoiding the purchase of stone as a filler).

“We appreciate the school board and Dr. [Tammy] Garrett and the mayor [Chad Graham] and the finance committee for entrusting us with that amount of money for a new school. We are working diligently to save money. The school board was very adamant this is the first time the county’s done a GMP [Guaranteed Maximum Price] contract, so it was a little bit of a learning curve,” said Sweeney.

“I think the hundreds of hours we spent during design and value engineering before we released the plans, when we made several changes, have benefited the county from that work.”

BCAC Stats

Bedford County Animal Control Director Josie Lowery gave several key facts at the Law Enforcement Committee meeting on Jan. 23 during the regular Standing Committees meetings.

According to their database, BCAC took in 696 animals in 2023. Since 2016, they’ve taken in 6,570 animals.

They ended the year with a 9.5% euthanasian rate. “Our euth rate would have been less if we did not have the cats break with ring worm and upper respiratory infections,” Lowery told the committee.

On the other hand, they had a 91.5% live-release rate in 2023.

In 2023, they spayed 74 cats and 129 dogs and neutered 69 cats and 132 dogs, totaling 404 animals.

This is essential as one female dog and her babies can produce about 67,000 puppies in a 16-year time frame.

“With just the female dogs alone being spayed, we saved about 8,643,000 lives,” Lowery said in her stats.

With Bedford County’s excessive stray animal challenges, prevention is key.

Less than 2% of cats and only 15% to 20% of dogs are returned to their owners.

“We ended 2023 at 98 animals (14%) being returned to their owners,” said Lowery.