To the Editor:
The Wilson County Board of Education has voted to send the proposed bid to build Lebanon High School to the Wilson County Commission for their support in funding the school. I believe there are still some sidebar issues and history of the process that is in need of clarification to further the process to completion.
In a letter dated June 5, 2006, signed by then-Director of Schools Dr. Jim Duncan and former Chairman of the Board of Education Ron Britt, a letter of engagement was written to Hewlett-Spencer, LLC in which they asked for Hewlett-Spencer to proceed with the additions and renovations to Stoner Creek and Rutland Elementary, and a new Lebanon High School. “We ask that you develop a guaranteed price for each of theses facilities on a turn key basis,” the letter states.
This was the first issue in delaying the process in building Lebanon High as to the validity of this letter and what it meant. Next came the site selection, the purchase of the land and use of the bond money to purchase the land instead of renovating the old Mt. Juliet High into a junior high. As was finally noted, the performance of the bond would have been tainted if not used to purchase the land for a new Lebanon High School as stated in the issuance of the bond. In turn the county’s bond rating would have been affected and the availability of the county to borrow money. A contract for the purchase of the South Hartmann Drive land was agreed upon Dec. 31, 2007.
Months of delay. As stated in the newspaper, a board member voted against sending the proposed bid to the county commission as she felt it would be delayed because of the bidding process. In a resolution signed and agreed upon by the commission dated Oct. 9, 2007 in which the county adopted Resolution 06-12-7 stated, “whereas much discussion over the last eighteen months concerning the need for a new Lebanon High School; etc, etc.,” the resolution basically developed a bid process that would be acceptable to the members of the county commission to get approval for funding. This resolution continues to state: “The new Lebanon High School, and all future Wilson County building projects shall be publicly and competitively bid, either by the standard bidding process or the use of the guaranteed maximum price procedure and no funding shall be obtained until the process for publicly bidding the school has been put in place, completed, and all bids have been opened in public, signed by 21 commissioners.”
Months of debate and delays. After finally getting to the bid process and publicly opening the bids, the board of education voted to re-bid the Lebanon High project due to pressure from the county commission to what many thought and some still think, had to be a hard bid process, period.
As the resolution clearly states either process could be an acceptable use to receive funding. Ninety days delay of unnecessary delay. Folks, the preliminary process to build a new Lebanon High School has been completed, all that can be done by the board of education has been completed, all the delay tactics, all the unnecessary finger-pointing has been completed. Now it is time to fund the school and build it.
Some commissioners are in the belief that if we once again wait we will have funding with bonds rolling off in the future. Reality is the county in 2008 has a total debt service with principal and interest of $12,576,045. A commissioner suggested waiting until 2010 as debt will be rolling off, however, in 2010 the total debt service will be $12,574,430. Another commissioner suggested waiting until 2012 when some big bonds will be rolling off. In 2012, total debt service will be $10,129,838. There really will not be any significant drop in debt service until 2018 when the debt service will be $7,533,615 which is a deduction of $5,042,430, not enough to build a school even then and in real time we will probably be four to five schools behind by then.
I guess it begs to ask, what is the commission’s plan of action to fund the building of our schools, as the resolution dated Oct. 9, 2007 stated “as much discussion over the last eighteen months,” add that to today the commission has had nearly three years to consider a plan of action to fund Lebanon High School, not including the years of failed efforts to get Lebanon a new high school.
If the leadership of Wilson County has a plan, please let the people who elected you know, as people without hope often become boorish. Are we as a county going to wait until we lose federal or state funding or are federally or state mandated to build schools or forced legally by civil action and displace our children while a school is being built? Are we going to continue to lose prospective industry and jobs or are we going to find an immediate solution and build a new Lebanon High School and prepare for future schools that are and will be needed?
It is in the hands of the leadership of Wilson County to provide that leadership, to take this county to where it needs to be today and in the future. We all agree and it is often stated, our children are our biggest asset. Let’s put our actions in line with our words and provide for the youth of Lebanon and Wilson County.
Larry Hubbard Jr.