Mold issue at West Rowan Middle a costly problem

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, September 13, 2022

SALISBURY — A mold issue that has closed West Rowan Middle School since Aug. 22, sending students back to online learning, could end up costing the county well over $1 million.

Some mold growth was initially reported as early as Aug. 3, but upon testing it was not positive for mold, though crews were brought in to clean those areas.

Microbial mold was however confirmed when Rowan-Salisbury Schools Chief Operations Officer Anthony Vann said a private contractor tested the school for mold and results returned the afternoon of Aug. 22 showed elevated levels of aspergillus or penicillium.

Staff was allowed to return to work last week, but students will not be allowed back into classrooms until Monday, Aug. 19, said Vann. Since the discovery, numerous contractors have been on site working, said Vann, but three mitigation specialist firms have been doing work that will cost more than the $90,000 contract limit that does not require board approval.

DUCTZ of South Charlotte, Enviropro Inc., and Bradshaw Flooring & Acoustical Ceiling have been working in the building for more than a week, but their contracts were just approved in Monday’s board workshop meeting.

Those three larger contracts break down into the following: DUCTZ had a “not to exceed” contract for $650,000; Enviropro had a “not to exceed” contract for $200,000; Bradshaw Flooring had a firm bid contract of $124,994. Enviropro will be the final team working on the site, and Vann said crews have been in the school “working 12- to 16-hour days, seven days a week” to get students back in the classrooms as soon as possible.

Board chairman Dean Hunter pointed out that “this is not our normal operation, to be approving contracts after the work has already happened, but this was an emergency, so that’s why we are doing it this way this time.”

Kevin Jones, board member, asked if there were other vendors working on site in addition to the three main ones and if the cost of those vendors, or of the overall cost of the project, has been assessed.

“There are numerous folks on site but their work does fall under that $90,000 threshold and no, we don’t yet have a total,” said Chris Knuckles who oversees construction for the schools. “I hesitate to give too specific a total but I would say in the end, we’ll definitely be looking somewhere north of a million.”

The county has filed an insurance claim as well, to hopefully help offset at least some of the cost, and Vann said “they have asked for further information and then will determine if there is any coverage.”

Other options to help pay for the unexpected emergency were discussed Monday, but no finite decisions have yet been made.

“How often will you be checking the school after this is done?” asked board member Lynn Marsh. Vann and Knuckles both said it will be ongoing and determined by where the levels are when the project is completed.

Vann said a plan is also being developed for checking other schools.