By MARINA WATERS
Replacing the heating system at David Crockett High School has now become an “emergency” for the Washington County Board of Education.
The board opted to take no more than $200,000 from its fund balance to replace the boiler at Crockett at the board’s monthly meeting held on Thursday, Aug. 1. Flanary said the Purchasing Act of 1957, which the county operates under, requires that public bids have to be let out though public advertisements and “that didn’t happen.”
“There is a very good possibility that if it had to go back all the way through the bid process, it would be way way into cold weather before this thing’s back on,” Flanary said to the board. “We think it qualifies as an emergency. (The schools’ finance director, Brad Hale) says we will probably get written up anyway because there’s so much money involved. But we’ve got to heat Crockett. If the school decides to close for three or four days because they decide it’s too cold, with 1,100 students a day and that funding loss, $200,000 all the sudden isn’t that much money.”
Because the boiler replacement will also be a part of Energy Savings Group’s savings package for the school board to consider, board member Chad Fleenor suggested the school board postpone the boiler conversation until the board’s meeting to discuss the ESG proposal. Fleenor’s motion to postpone failed in a 3-5 vote with Fleenor, Jason Day and Annette Buchanan in favor and Todd Ganger, Mitch Meredith, David Hammond, Mary Beth Dellinger and Keith Ervin in opposition.
“The reason I (want to) postpone it is I want Washington County government to pay for it instead of our fund balance, which is dwindling,” Fleenor said. “It’s ironic we talked about cost-cutting measures tonight on one hand and now we’re pulling $200,000 out of our fund balance. I just thought it’d be better if it came out of the capital money.”
However, the school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said the school system won’t get the invoice for the project until the job’s complete, at which time the ESG proposal could be approved by the school board and the county commission.
The county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee also approved the school system’s request for a cooling tower at Jonesborough Elementary School for $225,000 and for HVAC controls at Jonesborough Middle School for $63,229 at the committee’s Aug. 1 meeting. Should the commission approve those requests at its meeting this month, board members said those Jonesborough School requests and the boiler replacement cost could nearly balance each other out.
In addition to cost concerns, board members also said they were concerned about calling the boiler replacement an “emergency.”
“The only thing I worry about is it’s an emergency because we did it wrong,” Day said. “It’s not an emergency because it’s an emergency … we did the bid process wrong. We made that mistake. Is someone going to come back and say, ‘That really wasn’t an emergency, you just didn’t handle it right.’?”
Other board members felt it was still a necessary step in order to replace the boiler.
“That’s better than closing school because we don’t have heat for the kids,” Ganger said. “You can approve it tonight and regardless of what happens Thursday (at the ESG meeting), it’s not going to effect anything. You approve ESG and it’s in the scope of work anyway. We have to do it. It’s an emergency thing. We have got to get this fixed.”
The board will meet on Thursday, Aug. 8, to discuss the ESG proposal and the lease of driver’s education cars for the system. That meeting will be held at 5 p.m. at the central office located at 405 W College St., Jonesborough.