No action from Morgan County School Board during specially called meeting

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PRICEVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - There's still no resolution regarding the new Priceville High School. The building is more than 90 percent complete but questions linger about the building's safety.

WHNT News 19 first broke this story weeks ago when we learned the design team claimed there were serious flaws in the building's construction that could threaten the safety of students occupying the school.

The Morgan County School Board held a specially called meeting Tuesday night, presumably to terminate their contract with the design team. But they adjourned without taking any action on the matter.

"It's in a state of completion of approximately 92-93 percent," according to Leon Barkan, VP of Project Management and Construction Management for Volkert, Inc. Morgan County School Superintendent Bill Hopkins described Barkan as the school board's liaison with the construction team.

Despite the fact the building is almost finished, it's opening remains in peril because members of the new school's design team maintain there are serious construction flaws that compromise the safety of the building. As WHNT News 19 previously reported, the school board hired an independent construction engineering consultant to review the work. Their report was not enough to bring all sides into agreement.

"The life safety issues that have been identified by the design team are in fact not life safety issues, that's their opinion. The design team was provided with that report and their response is they disagree with that report so we're kind of at an impasse at this point," Barkan explained to school board members.

Katherine Lynn, the Director of the Alabama Building Commission, was also at the meeting. She says she knows of no other project of this type that has been so thoroughly investigated.

"The team is not working together. There is disagreement, there are opinions on all different sides as to what needs to happen in order to make the project move forward," Lynn told the board.

One of the design team's primary issues is with a wall in the new school's gymnasium. Critical bracing for the wall was left out when it was erected. We're told the integrity of the wall is critical to the stability of that portion of the building. The contractor went back and installed new braces for the wall, but the design team maintains it is insufficient. We're told the design team is calling for that portion of the school to be torn down and reconstructed according to the plans. However, the independent consultant's report says the wall meets all code specifications.

The school board had planned to go into executive session, presumably to terminate their contracts with the design team. However, members of the news media challenged the legality of the executive session and the vote for executive session failed 4-to-3. Moments later, and without further discussion, the meeting adjourned.

Members of the design team were not present at the Tuesday meeting and unavailable for comment. Neither Lynn nor Barkan would agree to an on-camera interview following the meeting. The school board is expected to meet next week and take up the issue once again.

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