Highlights of the October 20, 2014 Meeting
President Hamilton introduced Board members Mike Buckel and Ritch Vandeventer who presented a power point presentation entitled “Fire, Aim, Ready”, which dealt with the Board of Education’s seemingly untraditional approach to upcoming ESPLOST projects to be voted on in November.
Mike began the program by reaffirming that HCPOA is not opposed to any of the ESPLOST projects, however, we are concerned that poor planning could be financially disastrous to Hart County taxpayers. The goal of HCPOA has been to provide factual information to voters so they can make an informed decision in the November election.
The conventional ‘Ready, Aim, Fire’ approach involves time to develop a responsible and efficient plan. Being Ready to undertake three major construction projects requires diligent preliminary work including a clear definition of the projects with specifications for each. Then, when products of the Ready stage are refined with value engineering, reliable cost estimates, budgets, and bid packaging, the Aim step is complete. Only then are the projects truly ‘shovel ready’ and voters have the information to vote on ESPLOST funding. The Fire stage is complete when ESPLOST has passed and construction contracts are awarded.
Graphic data provided a visual record of Hart County’s long record of debt with regard to past construction projects. Cost overruns are the rule rather than the exception. HCPOA is concerned that the BoEd’s income projections are high but construction costs are estimated at an unrealistically low level. We also believe starting all three major projects at one time will be unmanageable.
Ritch Vandeventer’s portion of the program focused on how the BoEd and other ESPLOST supporters base ‘selling’ the program to the public on emotional factors rather than addressing real world issues. Instead of providing details, spending limits, prioritized projects, and accurate cost estimates they want voters to basically sign a blank check.
A comparison of how the business community would handle a project of this magnitude to how the BoEd is currently proceeding revealed major deficiencies on the part of the BoEd in the areas of transparency, detail, fiscal responsibility, verifiable facts. and defense of proposal. Voters have a right to have all the facts before making such a large, long term commitment. HCPOA proposes that the vote to pass ESPLOST be delayed for another year. There are sufficient funds on hand to allow the Ready and Aim steps to be completed on the College, Career Academy and gymnasium plus finish the Agriculture Center. We would still be on schedule to start construction on the remaining two projects in 2015 but would postpone adding debt for another year. A year’s delay would also provide time to focus on academic deficiencies and get Hart County High School off the state ALERT list.
Bill Fogerty gave a short presentation on the American Legion’s Wreaths Across America program which our local Post 109 is working on for this Christmas season.