Price is right for new ag facility

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, May 21, 2014

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A rare sound was heard in connection with a school board vote Monday: applause.

The celebration was brought on by the approval of a couple of items related to a new agriculture project facility at Decatur High School. Ag students, members of the FFA Alumni Association and others who supported the project clapped the loudest.

Last month, the school board was presented with sealed bids for the project. The low bid of $943,000 was higher than their previous estimates of $700,000 to $800,000, and Superintendent Rod Townsend agreed to work with the low bidder, J&D Dodd Construction, and architects Claycomb Associates, to look for ways to reduce costs.

Monday, the board was presented with a new price of $810,536. Townsend explained that several changes were made, including putting the building on a 6-inch slab instead of 8-inch, and changes in electrical and plumbing design.

The board voted 6-0 to approve the project. Wade Watson was absent.

Townsend said the project could be complete as early as the first of October.

Another vote, equally important, followed.

“OK, now we need to pay for it,” board President Kevin Haney said in introducing the agenda item dealing with a budget amendment.

Townsend explained the funding that was available. The district will use $100,000 in insurance money received after a winter storm destroyed a storage barn. Also, the district will use $125,000 out of the current year’s budget and another $125,000 out of next year’s budget – state money received for career and technology programs.

The remaining $460,536 will come from the general fund balance.

Like the project vote, the budget amendment vote also passed 6-0.

Decatur FFA Alumni President Marie Potter spoke in public forum before the vote, telling the board the project is needed for the growing agriculture program at the school.

“The numbers (of animals) has increased across the board,” Potter said. ” … Some students do not have the proper facilities to house their own animals, and without proper shelter at the school, they would not be able to show. The current barn we have was not properly designed to house the animals. It does not have adequate shelter, heat, electricity and water supply.”

She added that the FFA Alumni had to purchase panels to separate the pigs because there was not enough money in the school budget for the purchase.

Another parent of students in the agriculture program, Lonny Drews, said because of the success of the program in recent years, more students are wanting to join the program than the facility can handle.

“We need a facility bad,” he said. “We’ve had to turn away kids. We’re flat out of room. We’re stacked on top of each other.”

After Monday’s vote, that problem should be alleviated by this fall.

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