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School system opens bidding for mobile units

SALISBURY — Plans for drastically reducing the number of  mobile units at Rowan-Salisbury schools changed course Monday as the system’s staff announced that they will be put out to bid.

The shift followed Assistant Superintendent of Operations Anthony Vann’s proposal to demolish 65 of the system’s remaining 88 trailers over the next four years. Vann estimated the cost of demolition at $4,000 each, for a total of $260,000.

Board of Education members on Monday approved as much as $72,000 in contingency funding for the demolitions, as response to the call for bids is yet unknown. The money will come from the capital fund balance and cover the 18 units slated for removal in the 2019-20 school year.

The first 18 units are currently empty or being used for storage or office space, Vann said. “They’re what we call ‘low-hanging fruit,'” he said.

Vann said in early April that demolition was likely the only available option for dealing with the mobile units.

“I guess we saturated the market, because at this time right now when we have one up for bid, we did not receive any bids,” he said during the Board of Education’s April 8 meeting.

But some residents disagreed with the statement. Hal Sutton, who said he purchased 20 units from the system in 2015, said he had called several staff members in an effort to find out when bidding on additional units would open.

“RSS made a pure profit off the sale of the 20 units I bought,” said Sutton. “A private citizen, me, paid RSS to get rid of these units. … Who is it that decided to pass on a cost of $4,000 per unit … for the demolition of a sellable asset?”

Discussions during Monday’s meeting allowed staff members to address Sutton’s concerns. The proposal for demolition was just that, they said: a proposal.

“Obviously, if we were able to sell them, we would do so,” said Vann, adding that the school system started advertising for sealed bids for a collection of units this week.

Bids will be accepted until 2 p.m. May 16 and may be dropped off at the office of the construction director at Rowan-Salisbury Schools, at 500 N. Main St., or mailed to P.O. Box 2349, Salisbury, NC 28145-2349.

Board member Dean Hunter questioned why staff members had told people that no units were available when a recent survey showed more than 12% of the existing units were empty.

Vann said information at the time of the phone calls may have differed from the most recent survey of mobile unit usage. The evaluations are done periodically, he said, and the units were likely previously occupied.

Sutton also questioned the timeline for the bidding process, expressing concern that the advertisement for bids does not comply with state law.

Local education agencies are bound to the same standards as local governments for both the sale and purchases of property. For both, statutes require bid requests to be advertised a minimum of seven days unless the purchase is for real property, which requires a 30-day advertisement. Mobile units do not qualify as real property because they are relocatable.

The first units up for sale include two at Enochville Elementary School, two at Faith Elementary, three at Erwin Middle, two at Henderson Independent High School and five at the former Woodleaf Elementary. According to the bid agreement sheet, the sold units must be removed from each site by June 27.

The two Henderson Independent units were originally scheduled for removal the week of June 17.

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