Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

In 2016 the School Building Authority [SBA] surprised many rural school districts with what they thought was a workable plan to upgrade many school facilities. 

Pocahontas County was given an opportunity to do major upgrades and facelifts to some of its schools. 

A levy had to be run to create matching funds to obtain the SBA’s assistance. 

The sacrifices for such gains were viewed differently by different people throughout the county – and the levy failed.

I believe the board of education is responsible for seeking opportunities for the county schools, and to present potential opportunities to the people for their consideration.

During public meetings leading up to the levy vote,  good ideas were shared and reasonable comments made.  The one that struck me was “Why did the board never set up a major improvements building fund?” 

That was a great question, but there was no answer.

Since then, the board has discussed the possibility of creating such a fund. 

Previous boards did not establish a fund, which may have been an oversight. But they did have the foresight to hold on to insurance payments for various claims on the board office, knowing the day would come when a move from the current location was going to be necessary. 

Faced with many and various efficiency issues such as single glazed windows, block walls with little or no insulation, a flat roof that needed replaced not repaired, and an overwhelming heating expense, not to mention flood insurance premiums of nearly $12,000 in 2018 that compounded annually by 25 percent, totaled nearly $70,000 in five years. 

Access to the current board office is poor and difficult for the handicapped and elderly visitors, not to mention it has been through two fires and three floods.  With increasing expense and depreciating condition of the building, it was deemed good judgement to make a move. 

In seeking a location for the board office, 11 locations were considered. Some were too small and some were out of the board’s reach, financially.

The question was asked, “Why not use the annex building at the high school?” 

There were two reasons: first, it was apparent that converting that space into office space along with the needed exterior repairs would be too costly.  Also, that building is considered to be the only place to house students in the event of a disaster or mandatory school closing. 

With all options evaluated, the Hide Away Inn, or Old Moose Lodge, was collectively considered the best option.  It needed some demolition and some repair, yet it sits on 11 wooded acres with two rights- of-way, a paved drive, and easy, ground floor access.  It is a 4,000 square foot facility with 2,000 square feet sitting on a concrete slab. 

A bid process was used to see if the repairs, along with the labor, along with the purchase price would fit into the board’s budget. 

With all said, it was doable and the property was purchased. Though it was not absolute, it was of the opinion of legal council, insurance providers and the state B.O.E. financial officer that it was best to use the insurance money for a board office.

Joe Walker 

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