School board asked to donate land for shelter

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 15, 2011

NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams School Board received a surprise Thursday when they were asked to donate three acres of land to build a FEMA-funded hurricane shelter.

School board attorney Bruce Kuehnle said he was under the impression that the school board would lease the land to the county for the shelter.

Adams County Emergency Management Agency Director Stan Owens said at Thursday’s school board meeting the school board would be required to sign over the land.

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“The county would hold the title for the deed,” Owens said.

Construction on a storm shelter near Natchez High School should begin in early 2012 with the help of a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, Adams County Emergency Management Agency Director Stan Owens said in August.

Under the restrictions of the $3.25 million FEMA 361 grant, the shelter must be on school property and must be available to become a Red Cross hurricane evacuation shelter if needed.

Beyond those requirements, NASD schools could use the building however they choose.

Owens said a separate document would be drafted outlining how the school district can use the building.

The approximately 12,000 square foot building will be funded largely through federal and state dollars.

Five percent of the costs must be a local match — approximately $162,500 — of either money, land value or construction costs.

Board President Harold Barnett said Owens approached the board in the past about giving two acres for the storm shelter project.

Owens said since the school property acres in question are valued at $50,000, the donation of three acres would satisfy most of the local match.

Owens said in August the remaining approximately $15,000 required to fulfill the match will likely be spent in construction costs.

Board member David Troutman made a motion to authorize Kuehnle to move forward with the project and donate the three acres.

Barnet and board member Dale Steckler voted in favor of the motion, which passed.

Board member Thelma Newsome abstained from the vote.

Board member Dr. Benny Wright was absent from the meeting.

In other business from Thursday’s meeting:

4 In a 2-2 vote, the board denied the administration’s request to hire a consultant from Educational Planning Group LLC, to conduct a private study of the school district.

The study would cost $36,000 in federal Title I funds and involve a study of the NASD’s learning culture and climate.

Barnett said he did not want to spend district dollars on another study.

“It’s no secret I am opposed to spending money with consultants …I think we need to take a long, hard look before we spend money on another study,” Barnett said.

Assistant Superintendent Morris Stanton said the study would provide an analysis of the district with fresh eyes and produce valuable public relations.

Newsome made a motion for the administration to look for a less expensive option for the type of study in question. The motion died due to lack of a second.

Troutman and Steckler voted in favor of the administration’s request hire Educational Planning Group for the study, and Barnett and Newsome voted against it.

The request was denied because a tied motion without a fifth vote is a failing motion.

4 Newsome and Barnett voted against approving advertisement for a vacancy at West Primary School for a counselor position.

Newsome said she has heard that the district has in the past not advertised job vacancies because the position was being saved or a particular person.

“To me it makes it look like we’re doing something underhanded,” Newsome said.

Troutman said he wanted to authorize the publishing of the vacancy.

“If administration thinks West needs a guidance counselor, I don’t want to get in the way,” Troutman said.

The authorization to advertise for the vacancy was not approved do to lack of a majority.

4 Superintendent Anthony Morris handed out awards to 2010-2011 Parents of the Year.

Parents of the Year include:

4 Tracy David; West Primary School

4 Georgia Griffin; Frazier Primary School

4 LaTashia Clark; McLaurin Elementary School and district wide Parent of the Year

4Theresa Jackson; Morgantown Elementary School

4 Hattie Harris; Robert Lewis Middle School

4 Gregory West; Natchez High School

4 Karen Curtis; Central Alternative School