HEED Looks at Grant Funding; Tornado Damage Repairs
BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (January 13) — The Health, Education and Economic Development Committee approved two budget amendments, during Thursday morning’s meeting at the Weakley County School Board’s conference room. The Commissioners also heard an update on the status of repairs to county buildings damaged in the December 10, 2021, tornado.
General Fund Grant Resolution
A resolution authorizing General Fund amendments, which budgets additional monies awarded to Weakley County Government through a Local Health Services Grant for fiscal year 2021-2022, was approved by the committee.
The resolution increases the Health Department DGA Grant by $7,496, a total of $77,700.
School Fund Grant Resolution
The committee also approved a resolution amending the General Purpose School Fund budget for the fiscal year ending June 30.
Weakley County School Administrator Randy Frazier stated Weakley County Schools has received three grants as follows:
(1) The budget amendment reflects additional funding through the State of Tennessee for reimbursement of IDEA Part B preschool cost expenditures. According to Frazier, the Special Education Grant is in the amount of $28,438. He explained, “The county buses a Special Education student to Jackson every day, so we are going to receive grant funding to help cover transportation costs.”
(2) The amendment also budgets $16,500 in grant funding for vocational equipment, which will be used to purchase hydroponics systems for greenhouses at Weakley County Schools.
(3) Additionally, the resolution budgets an Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grant that provides $669,836 for various health-related expenditures. Frazier stated the grant is money provided to all school systems. “It basically says we partner with the state to provide free testing for COVID. It’s strictly voluntary. If we have any staff or students that have symptoms and would like to be tested, our nurses could perform these tests.
“We have a company that comes every day and picks up the tests and sends back the results” Frazier said. “We’re partnering with them and it allows us to count anything we currently have budgeted for the next half of this year. This includes things that would interrupt normal duties so an employee could deal with COVID or other issues. We’ll get enough money to pay half of their salary out of this grant.”
Response to Tornado Damage
County Mayor Jake Bynum updated the committee concerning the tornado damage to the county building housing the Ag Extension and Election Commission offices. He noted these two offices received substantial damage. “There was water inside the building. It probably has around $150,000 in damages, but the majority of that was covered by insurance.
“We filed insurance claims on it,” Bynum said. “We are currently working with The Color Shop to get that corrected. Part of it involved electrical issues that we had to correct. We had to work on the exterior and interior of the building, and I had to work with the electric company to make repairs.”
Administrator of Elections Alex Britt said, even though there was roof damage and water was leaking in, he was able to reopen his office the next day. Britt stated his office has a generator, which allowed him to conduct minimal operations after the storm damaged the building. However, he said the generator does not service the other side of the building housing the Ag Extension Office. He stated, unfortunately, the Election Office still doesn’t have any heat.
Britt said he would have had to double the size of the generator to have enough electrical power to operate the air conditioner unit. The existing generator is not big enough to run the central unit and is used for emergency purposes only. The generator in his office cost approximately $25,000, and he estimated it would have cost about $45,000 for a generator with sufficient power to operate his entire office.
Britt said people can still vote, even though there is no heat or air conditioning, and his staff can still do operations.
Although WCMES has restored electricity to the building, the central unit is not working because of damage to the ductwork on the side of the building housing the Election Office. “Our ductwork right now is opened up and there’s water damage inside. We’re hoping that there’s not any mold inside the unit, we’re not turning it on now, because it is not a closed system.”
“The courthouse sustained approximately $76,000 in damages,” Bynum said. “A couple of the HVAC units were damaged. Additionally, a couple of windows were broken, and telephone and internet service were spotty.”
Other Infrastructure Needs
Fraizer stated, when the cost of upgrading the HVAC unit at Westview High School and Dresden Middle School was previously figured, it would have cost approximately $8 million. However, the price of materials has increased dramatically, so the same material would now cost about $12 million.
“If we wait a couple years to do the project, the price may go down, or instead, increase, costing $18 million,” Frazier said.
Frazier explained the HVAC system at Westview is a two-pipe system, so either the air conditioning or the heating system may be used but not both. He explained that it takes about two or three days to switch over from heating to air conditioning or from air conditioning to heating. The rest of the buildings have stand-alone units, allowing them to switch over from cooling to heating immediately. “The project still needs to be done, but we’ll have to try to figure out what to do. The two items that have increased most are sheet-metal electrical supplies.”
Because of the increase in cost, Frazier said the project may be done in phases. What we wanted to do this summer was to finish Westview and the core (central part of the building) at Dresden K-8 School, which includes the gym, cafeteria, library, and multi-purpose room, then, complete work on the classrooms on both ends of the building during the summer of 2023. But that plan was formed when it would have cost $8 million, instead of $12 million.”
Some of the less expensive facility needs include installing the following:
- LED lights in Martin Primary’s library. That project got left out, during a prior lighting upgrade, due to a bad electrical meter;
- New lighting at Gleason and Greenfield schools’ football stadium;
- Lighting at the practice field at Westview.
Commissioner David Hawks, who chairs the HEED Committee, stated the county has made mistakes in the past regarding chillers. “Whoever we get to do the work for the county, I think we need to make sure that they are responsible for any problems that come up.”
“The current chiller system units are manufactured by TRANE and the county doesn’t have anyone certified to work on them, so we have to hire someone to come in and do the work,” Fraizer said. “We have a $10,000 service contract in order to have someone to service those units. If the chiller system goes down, the whole building goes down. The new units allow teachers to adjust the thermostat up or down as needed, and they can be repaired by Weakley County personnel. If need be, the students can move into another classroom for a couple of days until the unit is repaired.
Frazier stated, when the tornado left local citizens homeless, the Weakley County School System was able to partner with the Red Cross to provide shelter inside the Professional Development Center (Adult Learning Center), located at 8250 Hwy. 22. “We had about 20 people or so staying the first night,” he said.
Mayor Bynum said, “There are three phases for federal assistance through FEMA:
- There is the emergency phase which we are approved for.
- The recovery phase, but we are still waiting on.
- And then, three years after the disaster there is a mitigation phase. This involves the federal government opening up funding for future loss related to weather events or disasters. That may include school safe rooms and other emergency response measures. Another thing we may do is purchase a fairly large generator for the courthouse.”
With no further business, the meeting adjourned.