CEL board focuses on planning and construction contracts and sale of bonds

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[February 25, 2013]  Tuesday night's meeting of the Chester-East Lincoln school board focused mainly on documentation for the upcoming renovations to the school. The other important action that was taken after weeks of searching for a candidate was to welcome a new board member.

Board members present were Kenny Golden, president; Ben Roland, vice president; Tina Warfel; Leslie Starasta; Kenda Kitner; and Mark Mathon. Superintendent Jennifer Hamm was also present.

Construction contracts

Mark Graves of CTS was present to outline the potential contract for initial construction, involving mechanical and electrical upgrades as well as the installation of new windows.

Within the contract, the board still has a choice to make on which model of heating and air-conditioning system they wish to have installed. There are two options available, with the more expensive model allowing for a possible geothermal connection in the future.

In either case, Graves told the board that CTS will be able to use a lot of the current piping found in the school, which should help save on some costs. The budget CTS presented came to a total of $1.7 million.

The board is expected to make a decision before next month as to which model of HVAC system will be installed. The contract was still approved by the board, as the exact details (such as HVAC systems) can be ironed out afterward.

Jean Underwood of BLDD was also present to provide a possible contract for their part in the construction, which focuses more on the inside of the building. Initially, BLDD was hoping to operate under a total expenditure of $956,000 for construction. However, estimates for work and materials came to $984,000. Underwood said this was still an estimate, and if work bids still surpass the lower total, a number of items can be removed from the school's list of projects in order to cut costs. Once the bids come in, in March, CEL will take a closer look at the document.

The BLDD contract for services rendered so far -- designing, planning and other pre-construction services -- was approved by the board.

Finally, the CEL board approved the resolution to sell general obligation bonds at a revised price of $2.075 million. As a result, the actual sale of bonds can be authorized next month, and the board can sell bonds in a higher amount if necessary, up to $2.5 million. The board is expected to vote next month on a resolution to use debt certificates to pay for remaining costs.

New board member

As the meeting began, a new board member was sworn in. Mark Mathon is the newest member of the CEL Board of Education. Mathon took a seat at the table for his first official night as board member.

The CEL board had been seeking a new board member since November, when the resignation of two former board members caused some rearranging in the group's makeup.

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Letter from Larry Hall

Before the meeting could lead into any discussion concerning renovations and contracts, the board president, Kenny Golden, read a letter of apology from board member Larry Hall, who was absent.

Hall expressed his regrets for his outburst of frustration and language at the January meeting. Hall cited the situation at hand, as well as family health problems, both of which contributed to his stress. Hall's letter concluded, stating that he intends to return in March and finish his term on the board.

Concerns from the public

Jim Rohrer addressed the board members after the letter was read.

Rohrer said he was concerned about the lack of action taken by the board to approve a hearing that was held prior to the January meeting. The hearing concerned the board's intent to sell general obligation bonds to pay for school improvements.

Rohrer's concern was that the board should have taken action at a previous meeting in order to approve the hearing. Tom Crabtree of Stifel Nicolaus, the financial company CEL is working with to sell the bonds, explained to Rohrer that the only action the board had to take was the announcement placed in a newspaper. The announcement merely covers the intent to have a hearing; the bonds will not be sold until next month.

Rohrer voiced a second concern that the board members were not providing adequate information to the public, citing a lack of response to written questions Rohrer had submitted. Golden and Superintendent Jennifer Hamm told Rohrer they were open to conversation anytime.

Rohrer responded, saying that he believes he has given the board enough opportunity to answer his questions and that the board has violated the Open Meetings Act.

Hamm denied that the board had violated that law.

Hamm took the opportunity to try to dispel rumors that the board members have been meeting in secret. The presence of more than two board members in a given location outside of the school to discuss business is illegal. Hamm added that the board has taken every possible step to ensure that has not happened.


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