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Johnson votes 'no' to school bid
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Board of Education vice-chair Eddie Johnson refused to add his vote to accept the low bid contractor for Newton High's replacement school, saying he could not give his vote to something he didn't have a visual for.

The board was asked to vote on accepting the low bid of $42,603,500 for the construction of the replacement for NHS, which is located on Crowell Road. Part of the current five-year facilities plan, the state capital outlay will pay for $29,169,232 of the school with the additional cost being paid for from additional capitol project bonds.

Johnson initially questioned if the contractors, who are based in Augusta, would be encouraged to use local companies when appropriate. He expressed concern when he was told that although it is suggested to them, the school system cannot force contractors to utilize local companies.

He then questioned why he was being asked to vote on a project he said he had no visual for, although the board has seen at least two presentations on the projected look of the school.

"I think it's that we haven't seen information that will tell us what we're paying for or alternatives for elevations product," he said. "...Why can't we do something proactive? I think this board should see something clear, concisive, of what we're paying for... we should see it before we approve this bid... something that's legible and that we can understand."

Johnson complained that he didn't know what the building looked like and said that he had not seen any sort of visual, save the initial blueprints.

"We don't have no clue about the roof design, what any of the elevations, of what the landscaping will look like when it's finished - I don't. And you ask for my vote tonight for it? It's difficult."

Board chairman Almond Turner pointed out that the board had been shown designs, but that as far as detailed information on the building of the school, he trusted the school system's architects to do what was best for the children of the county.

"I am just as concerned at those statements that you made. I owe it to those people who elected me to this office to make decisions that I can support. I can't support a $43 million project that I haven't seen any detail on."

Board member Shakila Henderson-Baker asked Johnson what more he wanted to see and which details he felt had been left out in the presentations thus far.
"Like what did the building look like? Can you tell me?" asked Johnson.

"It was two stories, he showed us the water basins or whatever you put in on the side, he showed us where the parking lot was going to be..." Henderson-Baker began, saying she was just going off memory...You keep asking for a visual but the visual [the architect presented] kind of showed us that."

Johnson would not be placated.

"I cannot support this," he said. "Go ahead with your motion."

Although Johnson opposed, the rest of the board voted to accept the low bid on the construction of the replacement high school. The school is scheduled to open in the 2013-14 school year.