No money can be borrowed for school roofs

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

By Karen Hall


The County Commission's education and budget committees met in joint session before the commission's rescheduled April meeting Monday night to talk about school roofs.

The last time the education committee met, on April 1, they heard which roofs needed to be replaced, and which could be repaired. Consultant Kevin Turner of Stephen Ward & Associates presented a plan for replacement and maintenance which, if carried out, would have the county "ahead of the curve," as far as school roofs are concerned, in 10 years' time. The cost for the first year of the plan was $726,000.

The education committee requested a meeting with Steve Bates of Guardian Associates, who put together the finance for the school building project, to see if any money could be borrowed for the roofs.

The answer came back -- no more money can be borrowed right now.

"We're working with what we have," reported Director of Schools Jackie Abernathy. With advice from Turner, the maintenance department made repairs at Lewisburg Middle School and Cornersville High School, and even in last week's torrential rains, the roofs didn't leak.

"We did some dang good work," said Turner, who noted the work cost less than he estimated it would.

A new water problem has appeared at two of the schools, Abernathy said. Water is leaking in around windows at Oak Grove and Cornersville Elementary.

Turner reported he had looked at the windows at Oak Grove, and they were not installed properly.

"I don't know if it was designed properly," he said.

One source of additional money for roofs may be the school building program, which may not cost as much as what was borrowed for it.

"We went to the high side," said Commission Chairman Nathan Johnson. "We hope it will come in lower, and then we'll have some extra to use for roofs."

"We're not just trying to get more money," said Abernathy. "If we'd known the roofs were in this bad shape, we would have tried to address it with the building program."

Abernathy asked if the county would be giving any raises for support personnel.

"I'd really like to see them get something," she said. "They've worked mighty hard, and they have not gotten a raise from the county in several years."

Budget committee chairman Barry Spivey promised to keep it in mind, but said it would probably be another month before they knew if it would be possible.

"Is there anything else we need to address?" asked education committee chairman Rocky Bowden.

County Trustee Marilyn Ervin reported there is close to $1.1 million in the school bus acquisition fund, but schools budget director Janet Wiles told the group three buses will have to be replaced for next year, and a new bus route may have to be added in Lewisburg.

"They've also changed the physicals for the bus drivers," said Abernathy. Stricter standards may lead to 20 percent of current bus drivers flunking their physicals.

"We're desperate," she exclaimed. This news comes on top of an already serious lack of bus drivers that the school board has discussed several times this year.