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James L. White/Staff

Alpena School board members (from left) Tony Moore, John Bartlett and Kenny Underdown, who was elected new board president Monday night, prepare for executive session to discuss personnel issues.

ALPENA — The Alpena School board got some news Monday night regarding the recent inspection of facilities following the failed millage increase election in May.

The district had asked voters to approve a 3.4 mill property tax increase to raise money to build a new high school. Voters declined that request in May for the second time, so the school must now determine what needs to be done.

The district had asked voters for the same millage increase in 2017, but it failed as well.

The Arkansas Division of Public School Facilities and Transportation inspected Old Main and other buildings after that election, although they found nothing to be dangerous and the school was allowed to continue using Old Main.

Before the second election, officials from the division said there would be another inspection if the millage failed again, but it would be a much closer inspection.

That inspection took place May 31 and Superintendent David Westenhover told board members Monday night that he had received some results.

He explained that nine total buildings were inspected — all buildings high school students use.

“Most of the buildings are in really good shape,” Westenhover said. “I think everybody knew that.”

The problem areas were mainly in Old Main and the agri building.

In Old Main, there were some problems, like replacing ceiling tiles, that would be an easy fix. But other problems would be more intensive.

For instance, some termite and water damage was located in flooring. Some plumbing problems brought to light with the smell of sewer gas in bathrooms could lead to plumbing issues that might require digging up septic system lines under pavement.

Westenhover said a plumber is scheduled to inspect the system for an opinion.

In the agri building, some issues were noted with a lack of emergency lighting, but that could be resolved fairly easily. However, some exterior wall cracks need to be repaired and that would be a bigger job.

The main thing the board needed to decide, Westenhover said, was the path forward. He said he would on Tuesday contact division officials to set up a meeting to discuss the future of facilities.

Although he did receive the initial report, Westenhover didn’t have the suitability report that would be done by a structural engineer.

Board member John Bartlett said that report would be a significant part of the decision-making process.

Westenhover agreed, especially if there are problems with foundations of buildings. But he said he didn’t want to speculate on what an engineer might find.

The school had been approved for state partnership funding of about $2.5 million. The state determines the amount of money a district must spend on a building project based on the wealth index.

He explained that if the district can continue using Old Main for one more year, things could change. A new formula determining a school’s wealth index would make the school’s cost of the project lower.

Officials were told that in order to qualify for that $2.5 million, the district would be required to begin construction by Oct. 28 of this year and construction must be completed by April 27, 2021, if the millage had passed. Otherwise the money would go back into the state pot of funds for another school to seek.

Bartlett said he spoke with one state official who said the district could petition the state to try and qualify for that money again. Westenhover said the district could always apply again.

But Bartlett said he was told the school still has until that October deadline before the funding is out of reach. He was holding out hope that the school could develop a plan that could be the answer.

The board took no action Monday night pending the structural engineer’s report.

The board did meet in executive session for over 30 minutes, then returned to open session and handled personnel business.

The board voted unanimously to follow Westenhover’s recommendation to hire Aundranna Summerall as first grade teacher, Heather Garrett as high school counselor, Summer Byrd as high school paraprofessional and current employee Billy Sims part-time to mow grass for the summer to replace another employee taking medical leave.

On Westenhover’s recommendation to hire Angel Goodman as high school secretary, new board president Kenny Underdown cast the sole “no” vote.

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