Commission learns of safety issues at CCHS

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By Jennifer Caldwell

For a second month school board issues topped the agenda for the county commission’s budget and finance committee.

On Monday, some commissioners were prepared to put the skids on the school board’s decision to take more than $250,000 from its undesignated fund balance.

Jeff Marlow, county finance director, explained that the group had rejected the first amendment which secured the funding to be used for extensive repairs to the fire alarm system at Campell County High School.  According to Marlow, his proposal allowed for money to be taken from a number of line items including capital projects as well as funds remaining from overestimated increases in medical insurance coverage.

“I hoped they would do that (take the money from line items) instead of going into their undesignated fund balance,” Marlow told commissioners.

Commissioner Rusty Orick suggested that the commission accept the budget amendment as proposed by the school board under the condition that the funding sources originally proposed by Marlow only be allowed to be used to complete the fire alarm project. It is estimated the project could cost as much as $500,000 by the time it is complete.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t really make any difference where they get the money from,” Marlow said agreeing that the project would almost certainly exceed the amount school board members voted to take from their undesignated fund balance.

When Dr. Michael Martin, director of schools, was called to the microphone for comment, he voiced his support of the board’s action.

“We are all in this particular boat together,” Martin told commissioners making it clear that there was no choice but to approve the expenditure. “This is a life, safety issue for 1,500 kids and the undesignated fund balance by statute can be designated for use in emergency situations. I think this situation is the most applicable one.”

Commission Bobby White argued that it was pointless to continue on in the debate concerning how the school board spends its money.

“We are only here to say yes or no.  We can beat this horse to death, but the bottom line is these people are going to spend the money the way they see fit,” White told his colleagues.

Commissioner Ann Smith raised concerns about the suddenness with which the problems with the school’s fire alarm system seemed to come to light.

“Dr. Martin can you explain why this has come up so abruptly,” Smith asked.

Martin responded by explaining that the problems had accumulated over a number of years due to the laxness of the previous fire marshal.

“We now have a fire marshal who chooses to do his job,” Martin said in response to Smith’s question.

Commissioners also entertained a lengthy discussion regarding the fate of the $50,000 it had committed to be divided equally between the CCHS and Jellico High School JROTC programs.  

During last Tuesday’s board of education meeting board members voted in favor of setting aside $25,000 of the $50,000 they had committed to the respective JROTC programs to be used for capital projects in the 5th district. The move was made as a result of the elimination of Jellico’s JROTC program at the beginning of the 2009-10 school year.

During the meeting 5th district board members requested that Marlow suggest the commission make a similar division of the funds they had previously committed.

When Commissioner Stan Marlow made a motion to approve the school board’s action as well a designate $25,000 of the commission portion to capital projects for 5th district schools the vote wound up in a 6-6 tie.

The group eventually voted to approve the school board’s budget amendment regarding the money.

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