Consultant warned 1 year ago that new Horry County schools could experience delays

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – A second new school in Horry County likely won’t be open in time for the new school year and News13 Investigates found out a consultant warned the district about the construction schedule more than a year ago.

Robbie Ferris, the CEO for First Floor Energy Positive, told the school board Monday night that Myrtle Beach Middle School wouldn’t be ready for the start of classes in August. Socastee Middle School may not open until January 2018.

The board picked First Floor Energy Positive to build all of the schools at a meeting in November 2015. “It is specifically agreed amongst this Board that a May 1, 2017, timing of delivery is of utmost importance,” board member Ray Winters said at the meeting. “First Floor Energy Positive has not only promised on time delivery for a Fall of 2017 opening, they, from due diligence investigation have a proven track record of on time delivery of their projects.”

One month before that vote, Louis Batson, a consultant whom Horry County Schools paid $40,000, warned the district about giving all five schools to one company at the same time. “In the event more than two projects are awarded to a team, the likelihood of meeting any schedule diminishes significantly,” the report said.

Batson cited the number of people available to work and construction projects already planned in the area. He also said builders hadn’t scheduled enough time for weather delays and inspections, among other things.

Board chairman Joe Defeo calls the report “bogus,” despite its prediction about the delays.

Defeo told News13 the potential problems named in the report didn’t cause the construction delays. He blames land issues for delays at the new Socastee Middle School. As for Myrtle Beach Middle School, he says the district’s facilities department took months to turn over the land to the builder.

“[The report] had no basis in fact whatsoever and actually what happened. And as far as I’m concerned we wasted money on him,” Defeo said.

First Floor Energy Positive’s CEO has also criticized the consultant. He told us Monday the schools are on time based on the contract. Defeo says the builder has a set amount of time to complete the project and that period begins when the builder is allowed to start construction.

News13 has reached out to the consultant for comment, but has not yet heard back.