NEWS HEADLINES

Board gets good news, ‘sticker shock’

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Decatur School Board Thursday learned it had saved taxpayers close to $1 million, but they balked at spending nearly twice that amount for a building renovation project.

Last December, the board approved refinancing a portion of its $68.6 million in bonded debt in order to save at least $800,000. The exact amount couldn’t be determined then because it depended on the interest rate at the time of the refinancing.

Superintendent Rod Townsend told the board Thursday that the paperwork was signed about two weeks ago, and the district will save $987,860 over the life of the bonds. That works out to an annual savings of nearly $160,000 over six years.

The savings represent a break for DISD taxpayers.

“It was a pretty good savings. It will be as much as a penny (saved) on the tax rate,” Townsend said.

While the savings were greeted as good news, a cost estimate for proposed renovations to DISD’s oldest building was met with less enthusiasm.

The district plans to turn the building originally built as a high school in the 1930s (most recently a temporary home for Weatherford College) into the administration building. That move would also allow the technology department to move from its cramped quarters into the more spacious building that now houses administration, located at 501 E. Collins.

Two companies submitted bids for the project, with the lower bid coming in at $1.89 million. That bid included six “alternate” projects such as converting the auditorium into a board room, covered walkways to parking areas, total replacement of the roof, replacement of exterior windows and installation of protective siding.

“I don’t know about anyone else, but this is sticker shock to me,” board member Alan White said. “How did it get to be so high?”

Project engineer Jim Winton explained that it’s a large-scale project.

“It’s basically completely redoing the building – new electrical systems, new HVAC systems, new finishes throughout, new roof, completely stripping the outside and redoing it,” he said.

The building will also require several upgrades to meet modern building codes.

Responding to a question by White as to how the building could have been used by the college without the needed renovations, Townsend explained that while the college used the existing classrooms, those areas will be converted into office spaces, which will require new walls and air conditioning system.

“The other thing that makes me nervous about spending this kind of money … (is) not knowing what the legislature is going to do until April or May, what cuts we are going to have to make, we have no idea,” White said. “It might be worth considering tabling this until we know what the legislature is going to do.”

The project is expected to take 225 days, meaning it wouldn’t be ready for the start of the 2013-2014 school year as originally planned, even if the board awarded a bid right away. The next possible time for the move would be over Christmas break.

Because the bids are good for 30 days, and the school opened the bids on Tuesday, board members said they would like to review the project to see if money could be saved. They will meet again March 4 to reconsider awarding a bid for the work.

In other business the board:

  • honored Rann Elementary first grade teacher Tera Davis as educator of the month and Rann cafeteria manager Becky Trent as support staff employee of the month.
  • recognized the McCarroll Middle School one act play students for their first place finish in district competition. The students will perform the play “Alice” at 7 p.m. Monday at the Decatur High School Theatre.
  • called a joint board of trustee election with the city election May 11.

ADMINISTRATOR CONTRACTS RENEWED

The Decatur School Board also held a special meeting Wednesday night to consider administrator contracts. The following were extended: Judy Brown, Troy Bagwell, Velvet Townsend, Gary Micinski, Kyle Story, Judi Bell, Debbie Boatwright, Melonie Christian, Jason Cochran, Stephanie Quarles, Dewayne Tamplen, Beth Fountain, Melinda Woods, Terri Hornsby, Sheila McCollum, Cindy Bauter, LeeAnn Farris, Gabe Keese, Steven Valkenaar and Lana Thompson.

All administrator contracts were approved with a 5-0 vote except for that of athletic director Kyle Story. At the request of board member Marsha Hafer, consideration of Story’s contract was removed for a separate vote.

The board voted 4-1 with Hafer voting against renewal of his contract. Voting in favor of renewal were Kevin Haney, Jeff Elder, Diana Mosley and Alan White.

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