A new school may be on the horizon in Altha as the Calhoun County School Board is moving forward with an application to receive “Special Facility” funding.
Initially, the board was advised a campus master plan could be submitted with the application and planned to submit one prepared by Marianna architect, Paul Donofro. However, Superintendent Ralph Yoder recently learned more detailed architectural drawings must be turned in with the application due the end of July. It was feared this would not allow enough time to bid for architects, so board members opted to hire Clemons, Rutherford & Associates, Inc. (CRA), a firm that previously drew plans for a similar size school. Bill Rutherford told the Board he could have the updated version ready within a week.
Controversy arose during discussion about whether it was right to enlist CRA’s services without bidding.
“The Department of Education has deemed Altha School as a critical need for facility replacement,” Board member Kelly King tells The County Record. “It is the Board's duty to secure funds necessary to build a safe learning environment for our students. With the current state of the economy, the Board was advised it is crucial to submit our application for Special Facility funding during this funding cycle; for the funding may not be available in the near future. Based on this information the School Board declared a financial emergency for securing funds to construct a new school. Furthermore, the Board was aware of the public concern regarding the cost of architectural services during the BHS project. The Board took action to re-use existing architectural plans that will meet the needs of Altha School in an effort to reduce costs associated with architectural services and ensure we secure funding for constructing a much needed new facility in Altha.”
Danny Hassig and Ken Speights voted against the decision to hire the firm without bidding the job.
“I have a real problem not going out to bid,” Hassig remarks. “When you’re in government and you’re dealing with taxpayer money, you should go overboard to do the right thing. That’s why people don’t trust government.”
The measure passed, 3-2, with Danny Ryals and Tim Smith joining Kelly King in favor.
Superintendent Yoder was against not bidding the job.
“As provided for in Florida Statutes, the School Board chose a course of action which differed from my recommendation,” says Yoder. “I have assured the Board that my staff and I will work to ensure the success of our school system, including advocating for the necessary funds to build a new school facility in Altha.”
Yoder concludes, “Ultimately, our students, our school system and our community win with the outcome of the direction provided for by the Board's collective decision. I look forward to working with the Board in the coming months to provide a school design that meets the needs of our faculty and students, as together, we provide leadership from this generation for the next.”