By NEESEY PAYNE
After the tornadoes struck the county in April 2011, “What will happen to Draper Elementary School?” has been a question pondered by many.
At a recent meeting of the Pulaski County School Board, Ronnie Nichols, director of operations, presented an information item regarding options for an insurance settlement.
According to Nichols the insurance company presented two options. The board could take $527,000 to use toward rebuilding the school or take $400,000 (the actual value of the school) and do what the board wishes with the building.
Nichols said he had visited the school a month ago. “The classroom section is probably so far damaged that it would become expensive to bring it back to the standard prior to the tornado,” he said.
Vice-Chairman Jeff Bain said that he heard there was a desire to leave the cafeteria area, but didn’t know if it was structurally possible to tear down all but that part of the building. Otherwise, Bain said, “We have no use for it. We’re not going to use it. I’m all about taking the money and doing what we have to do to clean the site up and keep what little residual cash that is available and give (the building) to the county.”
Chairman Mike Barbour said he agreed with Bain. “If we have no plans, present or future, to utilize that building as a school facility I think we ought to re-convey it to the county and let the county make the decisions about what part, if any, of that building to rebuild and make the other decision related to the use of that property. Our job is to operate schools. I appreciate being allowed to have input and participate in community planning for the future of that site, but if its not going to be a school facility it should be set gently in the county’s lap,” said Barbour.
He added that that he is fascinated the county and school board had left upwards of half a million dollars in an insurance company account for 15 months. “That’s not benefitting anybody,” he said.
“We need to be very conscious of what the community would like and very respectful where their wishes are,” said board member Joe Guthrie. He asked Nichols if there was a consensus amongst constituents of the community not to repair it back to its initial state and take the cash value.
“There were a lot of different options talked about at a community meeting held in Draper. I don’t think (members of the community) settled on one direction. I believe it would be fair to say that the consensus be that we not repair it back to (its original) state. At this point I don’t know you could do that for $527,000,” Nichols said.
Board member Linda Hill who represents the Draper District said she had attended the community meeting in February. She said the community “strongly believes the money should be put back into the building itself as a community center.” She also expressed that the classroom section of the school was devastated but the gym, cafeteria and kitchen were in good condition, the cottage, in excellent condition and cannery “could be house another use in the future,” she said.
“I think if we give the county the building we should give them the money to go back into the Draper community also,” Hill said.
“The money that was invested in the Draper School came from the county as a whole. It didn’t come from just the Draper area,” Bain said.
The board voted to move the status of the Draper School building to an action item.
Bain made a motion for the school board to accept the $400,000 in actual cash value offered by the insurance company on the property.
Guthrie seconded the motion. The board unanimously approved to accept the $400,000 in cash value for Draper Elementary School.