Fire Flow Debate Consuming School RFP Target

After a thorny School Board review last week, School Board Chairperson Robina Bouffault’s proposal to replace PHR&A’s custom designed fire flow system with a lower cost, pre-fabricated, Flowtronex solution received an incredulous reception from the Berryville Town Council today. Based on the Council’s comments both during and after the meeting, Bouffault’s attempt to buy time for further negotiations over the final fire flow solution now appear to be on a collision course with her goal of issuing request-for-proposal documents by the end of April. The Berryville Town Council offered no indication of support for Bouffault’s overture and bristled at her suggestion that the Town’s actions could be responsible for delaying the building completion date by as much as six months.high-school-detail

“The School Board’s bidding process is just not the Town’s issue,” said Mayor Wilson Kirby after the meeting. “Everything has to be approved before the site plan can be released. We’re not handling this any differently than any other plan.”

At issue is the Town’s requirement that a fire flow pumping solution be approved prior to issuing a final site plan approval. The Town has offered the School board two choices; Either agree to a custom designed fire flow system already approved by the Town’s engineering staff or build and maintain a separate school system. Bouffault now appears to be asking the Town to detach final approval of the school site plan from the final disposition of the fire flow plan. According to Town Manager Keith Dalton, Bouffault’s request is contrary to an April 22 motion adopted by the Town that either:

“a) an agreement is approved by both the Town of Berryville and the applicant [School Board] that provides for provision  of required fire flow by upgrading the Town’s Booster Pump Station or b) the Town of Berryville approves a plan that provides for construction of an on-site improvement to provide required fire flow.”

Dalton said that the intent of the resolution was clear, either a shared utility agreement between the School Board and the Town must be approved or the School Board moves forward with construction of its own on-site plant.

Mayor Wilson Kirby confirmed Dalton’s interpretation of the resolution saying, “The Council’s intent was that approval of the site plan would include the PHR&A design or that the School Board would develop its own plan and fire flow project.”

Responding to Mayor Kirby’s interpretation, Chairperson Bouffault replied, “That’s not how we understood the motion.” Bouffault contends that pre-engineered/fabricated booster pump stations are allowable by the Virginia Department of Health under the currently approved permit and appears to be the source of her hope for continued negotiations with the Town over adoption of the final fire flow solution.

“The Flowtronex system is a comparable plan, and if it is more cost effective, it should be to both the benefit of the School Board and the Town of Berryville to put the money back into the school budget. The Virginia Department of Health says that it can turn approval for an alternate plan around in 30 days,” Bouffault said.   She then recited additional reasons why she believes that   the alternate solution should be considered; “The City of Martinsburg has two Flowtronex systems that Berryville’s engineering consultants, Chester Engineering, have worked on. The Town of Martinsburg is very pleased with the Flowtronex systems that they have.”

Bouffault then added, “I hope that the Town Council will not prevent the School Board from going out for bids next week.”

Bouffault’s remark touched on a heated exchange with Councilman Allen Kitselman over culpability of the Town Council for potential delays in the school construction schedule:

Bouffault: “Is it the Town’s intent to block the project until the fire flow issue is resolved?”

Kitselman: “Why are you throwing this up at the last minute? You’ve known all along that we cannot release the site plan until the fire flow system is resolved.”

Bouffault: “Are you telling us then that we cannot go out for bids?”

Kitselman: “That’s not our decision, it’s your decision.”

Bouffault: “Fire flow can be built out in six to eight months but we have a 27 month project that we need to start. If we have to stop now pending the fire flow negotiations that only happen through monthly meetings the delay could be six months. Is that what you intend?”

Kitselman: “This Council has accelerated the school approval process from the beginning. The School Board has a clear path forward for accomplishing its goals with the PHR&A plan. I do not understand why this is a barrier. I think that the cost differences are negligible.”

Town Manager Keith Dalton said after the meeting that Bouffault is essentially proposing to start the fire flow design process over from scratch even though the construction documents, product specifications and design plan have already been approved and paid for. “Everything is ready to go for the PHR&A design. We can issue the bid documents in less than a week” Dalton said.

Dalton doesn’t think that Bouffault’s proposal will actually equate to savings for taxpayers. “The Flowtronex cost estimate is labeled “Conceptual”. That’s because no one from Flowtronex has ever seen our construction standards and because their design does not meet our standards. Even if the final cost was only $189K the school would still need a water storage tank which could easily cost an additional $100K plus all of the additional engineering costs. This whole idea will cause unnecessary delays and unnecessarily waste money.”

Councilmember Mary Daniel (Ward Three) expressed puzzlement over the timing of Bouffault’s position. “In January the School Board came to us with the concept of a shared fire flow agreement but by March there still wasn’t anything from the School Board. Now it’s May 3 and they’re asking to change everything again.”

Mayor Kirby agreed that the School Board was ultimately responsible for the delays. “The School Board bought the school property in 2008. It’s now 2010 and they still don’t have a solution in place.”

Councilman Allen Kitselman (Ward Two) voiced his frustration after the meeting. “It’s the School Board’s building and the School Board’s budget. Is there some plan to try and vilify the Town Council here?”


  1. [Councilman Allen Kitselman (Ward Two) voiced his frustration after the meeting. “It’s the School Board’s building and the School Board’s budget. Is there some plan to try and vilify the Town Council here?”]

    I’ll give you 3 guesses and the first 2 don’t count.

    Who else is left for No-Fault to blame?

  2. Lonnie Bishop says:

    At this stage in the game, the School Board needs to rein in the Chairwoman and keep the process moving forward. It is sad that one person, whose backtracking is so obvious in several public records, can hold the process hostage. I don’t appreciate Kitselman’s or Dalton’s feudal mentality, but this time the blame is on her.

    She took it upon herself to serve as the project coordinator for this thing, in addition to being chair of the school board. Clearly, she is in over her head, again, and she threatens to derail the process.

    The Town is offering to absorb the ongoing maintenance and operating costs of this system provided the town and SB share costs of implementing an already-approved design. I think those costs, to be borne by the town, outweigh any gain to be had by switching to the Flowtronex system. The SB barely is able to maintain adequate kitchen equipment, maintenance, and other things of its existing facilities. If the Town is willing to partner with the SB to maintain and operate the fire flow system, then take them up on it.

    This matter is too important to let egos and political gamesmanship get in the way.

    • Tony Parrott says:

      Lonnie, are we in agreement again?
      Rein in the Chairwoman? Good luck with that.

    • I see Robina bashing is a sport with you guys and I can appreciate that, but the Town has thumbed its nose at this project at every opportunity. If the PHR&A plan for fire flow is so superior, why will it not stand up to examination against a comparable system? It’s too late to look into that? Nice try. $200K may be “negligible.” to Kitselman but it would go a long way in a classroom.

      I believe the chairman’s proposal is for the maintenance agreement to stay intact, just with a less expensive system that the Town wants nothing to do with. This attitude of “You do it our way or you go it alone” is typical of their behavior in the entire project including their “down your throat” approach with Mosby.

      It’s easy to bash the person the Town wants to put in the hot seat, but why isn’t the Town held accountable for its unwillingness to review the cost implications of a 7 year old design.

      • Lonnie Bishop says:

        To a point, you’re right. There is ample blame to go around. The Town has never truly offered any logical reasons why the PHR&A system is superior; rather, it’s been summarily dismissed as “the Flowtronex folks have not seen our plans and don’t know our requirements.” Much like Mosby, the Town dug its heels in, drew a line in the orchard, and decreed that they would not budge; play by their predetermined rules, or go it alone. Just like with Mosby.

        That has amply been discussed, and nothing has come forth to move them off their position. The SB has been put in a Catch 22 position, for the above reasons and due to the chair’s antincs and comments. Caught in the middle are some 2200 current and future CCHS students and the staff at the school – who’ve needed new digs for the better part of the past decade. At this point in the game, would the $200K actually go into the building, or would the schools need to build a water tank for the system? That will cost more $$$, money not currently budgeted.

        Part of this, too, is that – under the current chair’s previous stint in that position – a set of plans were purchased without the due dilligence to see if the fireflow required for the Pennsylvania middle school built from those plans matches what the Town’s requirements would be. Given that she served on the BADA at the same time, she should have known this; given her extensive “construction” knowledge, she should have known to ask the architects about it. Apparently, this was not asked, as the plans have been “ours” for about 2 years now and this is only now burbling up.

        No…the Town is not blameless. Throughout this process, Dalton & Kitselman have “defended their turf” and made demands that seem unnecessary. The current chair, through questionable comments and actions, only further emboldens them by stirring up animosity and distrust. It’s sad all the way around. There is no sane reason why a small community like ours has got to be always riled up by such narrowminded spite. Yet, the citizens continue to elect these folks (there were no challengers to the ward seats in town, only the recorder), and voter turnout was low. So…we get what we vote in.

  3. Common Sense says:

    Thank you Lonnie. Well said. Still trying to figure out Gonzo’s comment though.

    • Lonnie Bishop says:

      I think he was attempting to make a witty play on the chairwoman’s last name. I don’t think it worked.

  4. Unwelcome Outsider says:

    OK, Robina, let’s say you get your way and the pre-fab system is installed. Now the recurring maintenance costs come out of the annual operating budget.

    How long is the $200,000 “savings” going to last?

    And more importantly, which teacher are you going to fire, or what program are you going to cut, to continue to maintain your system when the “savings” run out?

  5. “She” has succeeded in derailing, at various times, practically everything involved in building this new, almost already obsolete school. Shame on her. And shame on her for bulldozing sane efforts.

    This school was a hot topic in 2004 when I moved to this county.

    It still is. Need anyone say more?

  6. Jim Gibson says:

    It would appear that the SB chairwoman is trying to feign ignorance one too many times. The Town has been lambasted many times, and rightfully so on occassion, for throwing up roadblocks and other perceived hindrances to bring this new and sorely needed facility into reality. At times in the past, it seemed like the county, the town, and the current chairwoman all were in concert in that regard. Again, it’s a perception…real, or not, it is there.

    Now…several times, in print in various public records…the Town has ephatically stated that it will pay some of the installation cost, and assume the maintenance & operational costs of the PHR&A system – a system agreed to by the SB months ago when it was included in the plans that have been approved.

    I will acknowledge that I am not an engineer, and have no real ken when it comes to fire flow gauges & pipes and that sort of thing. I don’t know that the Flowtronex setup would be so simple to swap out and replace the PHR&A one. I don’t like the Town’s attitude that either you play by our offer, or go it alone; it’s a bit heavyhanded, and smacks of a smugness of thinking they have the high ground.

    Still, there is a plan. It is approved. Costs are known. Bids are ready to be drawn up. The Town will pick up far more than the $200,000 or so that might be “saved” via the Flowtronex unit. Given all of these variables, and the desperate need for the school, I think the best thing for all concerned would be for the chairwoman to stop being a modern-day Quixote and quit trying to tilt with Kitselman & Dalton. In the end, all that will happen on her watch, again, will be to create an unnecessary delay, engender more animosity where none is needed, and perpetuate the image of Clarke County as being a laughingstock. For the good of the project, and the Town and county students it will serve, she needs to give it a rest and take the Town up on its already-agreed-to offer and end this silliness.

  7. Let’s see: the Town is offering to cover a good bit of the costs, both to set it up AND to maintain and run the thing, and she’s quibbling over that?!? She, the one who flaunts her impressive “knowledge” of business and construction costs? She, the one who annointed (I mean, appointed) herself overseer of this project along with the School Board and several of its committees with the blessings of 2 other members of that board?

    Wow. EVERY other locality within some 50 miles has built new, or remodeled existing, schools. This is like a NASCAR team working on a new car engine and, just as they’re about to lower it to the garage floor to take it out on the track, someone comes in from NAPA Autoparts and says they have a better radiator hose and the car can’t go without it. Ya think the sponsors would be happy with that?

    Well…the sponsors here (in this case, we the people) are gettin’ pretty fed up with the delays, the wrangling, and the cut-my-nose-off-to-spite-my-face shortsightedness. If the plans are approved, and bids can be done quickly, and the Town is willing to bear a large portion of the costs (I guess as a good will gesture since the school’s have to move the water line), then what pray tell is the issue? Be quiet, and let the project move forward.

    • Bond, James Bond says:

      Yes, the town has given a “gesture” to the School Board, but it cannot be printed here. Yes the town could have addressed the waterline issue twenty years ago when it was first pointed out, but they did not. Instead, they have used every opportunity to ride this Sugar Daddy project to the hilt. A previous commenter noted the “sane” efforts of the town. Please explain the sanity of running a “major collector” roadway for a nonexistent housing development through the heart of a high school campus. Will someone from the town be willing to deliver the eulogy for the first student run down on this asphalt monument to municipal stupidity?

      • By Stander says:

        Perhaps the School Board should have looked at the Town plan before they purchased the property. The road plan is not new.

        • Tony Parrott says:

          Well said! Actually sounds very familiar to something said on another post.

        • But the school is new, and any planner knows that roads change when land use changes. Abiding to a plan simply because “it’s always been that way” is short sited and shows a clear lack of leadership. The Town Council’s stance that the road will go through no matter what anyone in the community thinks serves only their own monumental egos, not the community.

          • Tony Parrott says:

            Mosby is a moot point. The problem at hand is fire flow. Then it will be storm water management or karsts rock formations or ancient Indian burial grounds. The point is it always seems to be something with the chair; the next BIG fight. I’m sick of it and I believe most everyone else is too. I hope and pray this school gets done despite RRB antics.

          • Yeah but you throw it in the conversation and then when you reach an indefensible point you call it moot. Now that does sound familiar.

          • Tony Parrott says:

            No, it’s only a moot point because we are past that argument. I only bring it up when I’m referring to the culpability of what someone knew or didn’t know.

            Now we can go back and rehash the pros and cons of a Mosby extension but as I said its moot; just like fire flow now.

  8. Debacle Watcher says:

    When her two minions put RRB back in as Chairperson, and owner agent, the project was doomed. I am so dissapointed in the installed (not elected) SB representitive from Millwood/Pine Grove I could cry. If she had been to any SB meetings in the 6 years prior to her installation she would have seen RRB attack everything to do with building a new HS. And she still does, but with tactics such as this as the SB chair now. I already knew the representative from Buckmarsh only does what RRB tells her to do. It’s a shame the Berryville & Russell reperesentatives have no voice at all with the RRB block of 3 controlling everything.
    Thanks for RRB White Post voters!

    • Lonnie Bishop says:

      Hmmm…an interesting point you make. Throught their actions, those ladies have appeared ready to back the chairwoman, regardless of how foolhardy or recalcitrant or ego-driven she seems to be. That is sad, because this project is (or at least SHOULD BE) so much bigger than that. Here’s hopin’ that they now see the error of blindly trusting the chair, and will exercise some effort to not be seen as mere rubber stamps to the chair’s whims. If this project fails, it’s all on these ladies – all 5 of them, but the bulk will fall at the feet of the chair.

      • Debacle Watcher says:

        Sad as it is, the failure of this project is the success RRB has always desired. And she currently has two accomplices – unwhitting or not.

  9. bodaquilts says:

    We moved here eleven years ago. They were discussing a new high school then. As retirees with no kids in the county schools we were concerned about how this would impact our property taxes. Well thanks to Robina it looks like we won’t have to worry about an increase as we will not see a new Clarke County High School in our lifetime. Keep up the good work Robina.