9 Investigates: School officials replace roofs without checking warranty first

by: Blake Hanson Updated:

MONROE, N.C. - Union County Public School officials paid to replace some school roofs without first checking to see if a warranty might cover the costs.

Channel 9 received a tip that pointed to possible waste of taxpayer dollars. Two board members acknowledged Thursday that UCPS did not pursue warranty coverage for roofs at some schools over the past five years.

A UCPS spokesperson released a statement to Channel 9 Thursday that did not directly acknowledge what occurred. However, they did say the new board and administration has already installed new procedures to handle roofing matters.

"Safety is always at the forefront of key decisions in Union County Public Schools," school officials said in a statement. "In prior years, contracts were approved and awarded to replace roofs. The current Board of Education and administration has established new procedures to review roofing needs, including maintenance, repairs and warranty coverage. In addition, UCPS administrators plan to identify funds to conduct a comprehensive roof audit."

Newly elected at-large board member Dennis Rape said he became aware of the issue over the past five months. He said the mistake might have cost county schools as much as $10 million.

"If we save roof money we can spend it on the children, spend it on teachers," Rape said. "[The old] attitude was, ‘Well, we've got the money, just do it.’"

School staff and other board members did not confirm that $10 million figure.

Vice-Chair Gary Sides said it would be "speculative" to place a number figure on how much could have been saved. He said past boards did not have a policy in place to pursue warranty relief.

"Moving forward, we will be pursuing warranty options," Sides said.

Sides said once the new board took over, they were "playing catch up."

Rape said that roofs were replaced for 12 schools in the past five years that had active warranties. He said three schools had warranties with companies that no longer existed, so a warranty would not have covered costs.

A UCPS spokesperson was not able to immediately provide information on how many times the school system awarded contracts for roof replacement without checking the warranty.