County school board assesses damage; plans repairs

Published 8:23 am Wednesday, June 30, 2021

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The Escambia County School Board met last Thursday to make initial steps in getting repairs done at W.S. Neal High School following a tornado in East Brewton.

John Knott, supertendent, said the board would need to approve a resolution so that the move to get repairs underway could be done quickly.

“This will allow us to move forward without having to advertise for bids (for work) to mitigate any further damage,” Knott told the board. “It’s a juggling act to work through issues.”

The resolution approved Thursday will allow county school officials to engage in business with contractors to begin work on repairs as quickly as possible.

“This will allow us to move forward foregoing some of the usual requirements,” Knott said. “A letter will be sent to the governor for approval of the request. This resolution will allow us to enter into an agreement and engage with an architect to proceed with needed work.”

Knott said the governors approval would also help the county become eligible for other funding that may be available in circumstances such as this.

“We began work immediately to ascertain the damage and to secure our facility to avoid any further damage,” Knott said. “We have already done some work to make sure no further damage is done.”

Knott gave a recap of work done and work yet to be done.

“We had very little damage in the main building,” Knott said. “We had a few leaks in the roof from lost vent gaps and some gutter and facia issue. The canopy lights were lost and we lost some insulation. The only water in the building was at the back door facing east and at the library door. We had ServePro on sight immediately and they took care of the water issue for us and helped secure the roof. We will need to get the roof repaired and will be getting Johns & Kirksey back to do those repairs to help keep our warranty intact. They are top notch and I believe we can get them here quickly to make those repairs.”

Knott explained to the board that they biggest percentage of damage done on the East Brewton campus is to the auditorium and the maintenance/technology building.

“Our auditorium suffered significant damage,” Knott said. “All of the air conditioning units on top of the building were ripped off and are dangling. The decking of the roof was ripped off along with the insulation and rafters. The damage is all the way through. We have closed the building and done everything we can to prevent anyone from going into the building. Our adjusters agree there are some safety concerns at the building. We will have to wait for cranes to be brought into to get a full assessment of the damage there which will be the first week of July. I won’t make any assumptions on the structure. Engineers will need to assess that and make a report on the damages. The building is secured and we are at a standstill until we receive the report.”

Other points of significant damage were from the maintenance/technology building adjacent to the auditorium, Knott said.

“The winds took the roof off and the building was flooded,” Knott said. “Those old terrazzo floors and the fact that the building is block helped somewhat. The ceiling is wiped out and the roof was not a part of the building structure so that helped as well. The roof will have to be replaced. We are looking at about $150,000 for a permanent replacement roof.  Once we contacted some contractors on getting that roof replaced, we were told there could be a months-long wait for insulation and other materials to make the permanent repairs. We need to do what we can to get that building secured and get the technology folks up and running.”

Knott also updated board members on relatively minor damage to other buildings on the campus.

“We have fences down at the baseball fields, the bush shop, the school and the softball field,” Knott said. “All of the scoreboards on campus are gone and we have awning damage around the campus. At the bus shop, we lost one of the bay garage doors and had a few busses pushed around so there may be some damage the skin of the busses, but nothing we can’t repair. There were also a few windows blown out but that is taken care of now. There was very minimal damage done at the field house with only two broken windows and some small leaks. The greenhouse did sustain some damage, but it still standing. We do have some structural damage there. At the athletic building, we did have some air conditioner damage and a few leaks but generally the building is in good shape.”

Knott said moving forward with repairs is the main focus for now and contacts with adjusters, contractors and consultants has already been put into motion.

“Until the repairs are done, safety is our No 1 concern,” Knott said.