By NEESEY PAYNE
It has been a question asked for months now amongst, Pulaski County School Board, Pulaski County Board of Supervisors and community members, alike – “What is going to be done with Pulaski and Dublin middle schools?”
In March, a school renovation plan was discussed during a joint session of Pulaski County School Board and Pulaski County Board of Supervisors (BOS). During the session, BOS Chairman, Joe Sheffey asked if there were recommendations to have “one particular school or remodel both Pulaski and Dublin middle schools.”
It was decided an architectural firm should be contacted to get cost estimates. Doing this would give community members a comparison of the costs of various options for the schools.
At Monday’s joint session, plans were made to move forward with the study.
County Administrator Peter Huber suggested two architectural firms the county believed to be most qualified for the job, OWPR Inc. (which was involved in building Pulaski and Riverlawn elementary schools) and CRA. Jared Linkous, county engineer, said the county received proposals from both firms and is open to receiving presentation proposals for selections at this time.
Pulaski County School Board Vice-Chairman Jeff Bain had some concerns.
He said the selection process of an architectural firm is usually the responsibility of the school board. He believed the county’s solicitation of a request for a proposal left the school board out of the loop.
“My understanding through experience, history and reading of the code that it is the responsibility of the school board to select (the firm) rather than a collective decision.”
“I don’t think there was an intent to disserve the school board’s authority,” said Huber. Huber explained the firms are a tool the county has at its disposal and the school board can choose to use it or not.
Draper Supervisor Dean Pratt said Bain had a point. “I think the school board needs to tell us what they need and (the supervisors) make the decision with the money.” He added he believes there needs to be open communication with both boards so there are no surprises in the process.
Huber said that he’s seen processes like this stall over the years.
“I’m worried about there being too much lag time. It’s going to take quite a bit of community time figuring out how to do this because the middle schools have three or four different options and everyone has a different perspective on it. Right now, nobody has numbers on any of those perspectives. Getting some numbers is a start to figuring out what the community at large would want to do,” he said.
Pulaski County School Board member Joe Guthrie agreed. He said, “Now is a historic opportunity to build a middle school while interest rates are low, while construction costs are relatively low. If we don’t’ take advantage of this opportunity now, I’m afraid we might look back and say, ‘Oh wow, what if we would have just built that school a few years ago when interest rates and construction costs were low.’”
Guthrie said he was pleased that both boards could agree on something. “The two boards are pretty much in agreement that something needs to be done. That’s a big first step that a lot of us give ourselves credit for. We are rolling in the same direction and that is a good thing,” he said.
“We need to have some numbers so we can determine what is the best option with how we proceed and move forward. The best way to do that is through doing this study,” Guthrie added.
During Thursday night’s session of Pulaski County School Board, Ronnie Nichols, director of operations, recommended the board allow the two architectural firms suggested by the county present bids to the board.
Pulaski County School Board Chairman Mike Barbour said he believed it would be appropriate to schedule a special meeting of the board for the purpose of hearing both presentations. Board members agreed.
The board is working to secure a date to hear the presentations.