After initial designs and redesigns, budgets being increased and decreased and alternative locations chosen, the Huntsville School Board approved the final budget and bids for the construction of the Career Technical Education Centers in St. Paul and Huntsville at a specially called school board meeting last week.
The Record has always been supportive of the projects, which will be funded by the increased millage passed last year. We strongly believe that the activity center, the new HVAC systems at the St. Paul gym and the Charles Berry Gym as well as the CTE buildings and the instruction that takes place inside those buildings will be a significant boost to the students in the district, as well as the community. We are steadfast supporters of those projects and all the good that they will bring.
The fact that we’re disappointed that local companies and businesses did not have a good opportunity to bid to build those projects doesn’t take away from our support of them.
The community came together to support the millage and we were hopeful that their support would have given them the opportunity to be a part of the building process.
C.R. Crawford presented a list of 16 local companies in Madison County that it said received an email in order to bid on the CTE projects. However, some of the businesses on the list never received that email. An advertisement ran in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette with the invitation to bid, but that same invitation to bid did not get published in the local paper, The Record, nor was it posted on the school’s website.
People have pointed out that some companies in the county are not large enough and don’t have the manpower or the supplies to bid a project as large as that. We don’t disagree. But, we think those companies should have been given the opportunity to make their own decision.
We know that the school board has a duty to seek the lowest bid possible in order to be good stewards of the district’s money. However, because a local company submits a bid does not mean it would be awarded that bid. We think local companies should have been given more notice regarding those bids and the opportunity to tender a bid.
Only one business with local connections submitted a bid. We’ve asked for a list of subcontractors that were awarded bids, but as of press time, Phil Jones of C.R. Crawford has not tendered that list to the district, the school board, or to The Record, despite the fact that we submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for that information.
“We are still in the process of notifying subcontractors and even seeing if there are some additional cost savings available to the Huntsville School District. When we complete our process … we will forward complete information to the School District, and we will do this just as quickly as we can,” Jones said.
These projects are benefits for the school. We applaud the district and the school board for the countless hours they have spent getting those projects up and going. We just wish the community could have had the opportunity to be a part of the building process.
That said, we’re hopeful that local labor can be used and local supplies bought by the subcontractors coming into our county to build these projects.
We know that the openings of those buildings will bring reasons to celebrate. We just didn’t want to wait until the openings of those buildings to see the myriad of benefits – such as the opportunity for work for our community and a financial boost to our county businesses – to present themselves.