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 CAB Board Votes 4-3 to Repair KIS, Build Athletic Facilities

June 3, 2009 - At the outset of Monday’s special meeting, Superintendent Gary Storie noted there was “some difference of opinion” among Charles A. Beard School Board members as to how CAB should use about $2 million it could get through debt refinancing.

By the time the meeting adjourned – two-and-a-half hours and three divisive votes later – board members had shown the standing-room-only crowd just how deep some of those differences are.

Monday’s meeting was another in a series of special meetings the board has held over the past few months to deal with strategic planning issues. The board’s primary objective for Monday was to come up with a list of proposed projects for spending up to $2 million that could become available if CAB refinances bond debt incurred when Knightstown High School was built.

There was some urgency to the board’s task: With a public hearing connected to the refinancing scheduled for the following night, the board had to come up with its list at Monday’s meeting, or face putting off the public hearing and refinancing for at least another month.

The board had previously approved a projects list at its May 19 meeting. Storie advised them at a May 27 strategic planning meeting, however, that their attorney had said the list needed to be more specific and without the contingencies that had been part of the board’s first effort.

Discussion and debate among the board’s seven members at Monday’s meeting was, as it had also been on May 19 and 27, at times heated and contentious. The primary issues of continued to center around how the funds from the refinancing should be used with respect to athletic facilities and the Knightsown Intermediate School.

Saying he thought CAB needs to “maintain our commitment” to KIS, Storie recommended that most of the money be used on making improvements to the intermediate school. Funds unused on KIS, he said, could be used to address some of CAB’s athletic facility needs.

The primary alternative to Storie’s proposal had been offered by Board Vice President Steve Dalton, who wanted CAB to build an Olympic-size track with a combination football/soccer field in the interior, with an artificial turf surface. At the board’s May 27 strategic planning meeting, Dalton had said he had researched the issue and believed CAB could build this type of facility near KHS for about $1.1 million.

Board President Kevin Knott and member Leah Kopp both said they supported spending the biggest part of the money KIS, as Storie had recommended. Dalton and board member Mark Fort, however, questioned that move.

If CAB were to spend $1 million or more on work on KIS, both Dalton and Fort said they felt that would effectively take KIS out of consideration for possible closure as the board looks at its facility options. They argued that this would be breaking the board’s word – given in April to Kennard Elementary supporters who fought against the possible closure of their school – that all options would be studied.

Don Scheumann and Chris Bundy, KIS principal and vice principal, respectively, spoke in favor keeping their school open. They said separating the seventh and eighth graders from the high school students had had a positive impact on student academic performance, and reduced the opportunities for older students to be bad influences on younger ones.

Fort said CAB’s facilities director, Mike McKillup, had said that spending about $200,000 on KIS would be enough to “stop the bleeding” and keep the school going long enough to do a thorough study and decide whether to keep it open. This would replace hot water piping that is now leaking, and provide a new hot water boiler to replace one that is 45 years old.

Fort and Dalton also took issue with the differences in cost estimates provided by McKillup and Performance Services, Inc., a consulting firm CAB had hired to assess heating and cooling issues and other facility needs in the district’s five schools. For an estimated $568,000, McKillup said he thought enough work could be done on the school’s heating and cooling system to keep it operating at least another 10 years. PSI, on the other hand, had estimated that these renovations could run $1 million.

Knott made a motion to approve Storie’s recommendations on spending the funds gained through refinancing, with the exception of looking at installing a new track at KHS instead of repairing the old one at KIS. The list also included the following proposed projects: a total of $1.1 million spent on KIS, for heating and cooling renovations, work to the school’s kitchen, repaving of the parking lot, and cosmetic work on the building; with the balance going toward athletic facilities at KHS, which, in addition to a new track, would possibly include a new softball diamond, soccer field and concession stand.

Board member Wade Beatty seconded Knott’s motion on the list of proposed projects. Noting the academic progress Bundy had cited, Beatty said he believed it would be a “disservice to those kids” for the board not to spend the biggest part of the money on KIS.

Dalton said he thought the board was rushing its decision and, in the process, doing a “disservice to our taxpayers.” He said he didn’t understand why the board would even consider spending up to $1.1 million on KIS when McKilllup said $568,000 would be enough to get the building in good shape for at least another 10 years, a point with which Fort agreed.

Knott said that the $1.1 million he proposed spending on KIS would also include things other than the heating and cooling system work. For example, he said paving of the parking lot and renovating of the cafeteria, two items not included in McKillup’s estimate, might be part of the project.

Schaetzle reminded board members that if they didn’t reach a decision that night on the proposed list of projects, the refinancing efforts would have to be delayed at least another 30 days. He said he didn’t think he was willing to put off the decision that long.

At one point before the vote on Knott’s motion, Kopp asked Fort if he was saying that what Storie has said was wrong. When Fort said that was what he was saying, Kopp asked him, her voice raised, “Why did we hire him?”

“Does that mean I’m supposed to agree with everything he says?” Fort loudly shot back.

“That’s the way you used to do it,” Dalton told Kopp. “That’s not the way we do it anymore. ... Why do we need a board if we’re going to do everything that (Storie) says?”

At this point, Knott said he was calling the matter to a vote. Dalton accused of Knott of trying to stifle the discussion of the issue.

“Given the gravity, why are we shutting the debate down?” Dalton asked. “... Is that your decision or our decision? That’s one man’s decision, and other people need to speak.”

Knott said, as the board’s president, it was his prerogative to call the matter for a vote after a “reasonable amount of time.” Dalton said he thought Knott “obviously wanted to get what he wanted” by shutting down the debate.

After several more minutes of discussion, the board voted 4-3 to approve the list of proposed projects that will spend up to $1.1 million of the available funds on work on KIS, with the rest going toward athletic facilities at KHS. Dalton, Fort and Tim Wehr voted against the motion.

Immediately after that vote, Dalton and Fort made and seconded a motion to cancel CAB’s contract with Project Services, the firm that had provided cost estimates for much of the work on the list of proposed projects. That motion passed by a 6-1 vote, with Beatty the lone dissenter.

Next, Storie recommended that the board approve hiring the firm Williams Lorenz Clinton as architects on the projects. Dalton questioned why the board would simply “hand this to somebody” without looking at proposals from others, and asked, “Why do we keep doing the same thing?”

Storie said Williams Lorenz Clinton had been involved with construction of KHS, and other CAB schools prior to that. He said it was this working knowledge of the district’s buildings that prompted his recommendation to hire them.

Beatty and Kopp made and seconded the motion to hire Williams Lorenz Clinton, but with Schaetzle being the only other board member to support it, the measure fell one vote short of passing. Dalton, Fort, Wehr and Knott, all voted against hiring the architects before CAB is able to review proposals from other firms.

(Tuesday night’s public hearing on CAB’s plans to refinance debt on the Knightstown High School occurred after the news deadline for this week’s issue. Coverage of the hearing will appear in the June 10 Banner.)

 

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