DOBSON — County commissioners approved $75,000 for one school project, but another request was tabled at Monday’s meeting.
Dr. Travis Reeves, Surry County Schools superintendent, had to split from his own Board of Education meeting Monday afternoon so that he could appear before the Board of Commissioners.
He said a request for funding for emergency kiosks at the county district’s three high school campuses had been met with misinformation.
An article in The Mount Airy News over the weekend had incorrectly reported the needed amount, and Reeves noted that to the commissioners
Via mail, Reeves had asked commissioners to allocate $83,970 toward purchasing 18 emergency kiosks for the three campuses (North Surry, East Surry and Surry Central). Those dollars, plus the school’s annual allocation earmarked for safety, which was $68,840 in the current fiscal year, would have comprised the $152,810 needed to purchase the equipment.
Though Reeves tabled his request for funds, a lengthy conversation still ensued.
The superintendent had asked the county board to reallocate monies once earmarked for school resource officers in the county district’s middle schools. Commissioners had allocated about $172,000 toward the positions after the board was told a grant which funded the resource officers had expired.
The board later learned the state funding was still available. Thus, the county’s funding was no longer necessary.
Reeves sought to clear up the circumstances regarding the resource officer funds as well, noting it was his understanding it was a two-year grant which funded the positions in 2014.
“It was not in our initial planning allotment from D.P.I. (the N.C. Department of Public Instruction),” said Reeves.
Donna Bryant, finance officer for the schools, explained the planning allotment is an outline of what state monies will be available to the district. The planning allotment usually comes in February, March or April, and it is based on the governor’s recommended budget.
After a budget is passed, Bryant explained, the district gets an initial allotment. Multiple versions, each including changes, follow the initial allotment.
Reeves told commissioners it wasn’t until the sixth version of the document that the state resource officer funding appeared in the allotment.
“We received inaccurate information from D.P.I.,” Reeves told commissioners. “We would not ask for money if we didn’t think we needed it.”
Once it was determined the state monies for resource officers were there, Reeves said the inconsistency was rectified, and the county dollars earmarked for the positions were pulled from the Sheriff’s Office budget.
Reeves told the board the kiosks had been identified by the three principals at the high schools as a priority in safety. Though the kiosks include emergency and non-emergency call buttons, he highlighted the public address system and flashing blue lights on the kiosks.
Many students leave the campuses throughout the day to take college courses, explained Reeves. Should those students — or anybody else — return to the campus during a situation such as an active shooter emergency, the flashing lights and public address systems would warn those folks of the possible danger.
He indicated such instances had been a concern raised during lock-down drills at the schools.
“How many high schools in North Carolina have these?” asked Commissioner Van Tucker.
Reeves replied he knew of no North Carolina high schools which have the kiosks on campus. However, several high schools in Virginia have them.
Commissioner Larry Phillips said many college campuses are removing the kiosks from their campuses. He noted he has two grandchildren in the county school system. Thus, he, too, is concerned about school safety.
Phillips also floated an idea to form a joint committee on school safety so school board members, law enforcement and county commissioners could address safety needs.
Prior to the discussion regarding the kiosks, commissioners voted unanimously to approve a special request for funding for a chiller at Dobson Elementary School.
Reeves told commissioners a 75-ton chiller, the main component of the air conditioning unit,serving a portion of Dobson Elementary, won’t serve the school much longer. A part called the chiller barrel needs replaced, which would be an expenditure of about $45,000. And, the entire unit is 28 years old so further repairs could be coming.
A new chiller, according to an estimate provided by the Department of Instruction, would cost the schools $75,000.
Reeves also noted the schools will have to move expeditiously to get the new chiller installed before things heat up, which usually occurs around mid-April.
“If it’s broke, it needs fixing,” said Tucker.
The board voted unanimously to approve the $75,000 for the chiller after county Finance Officer Sarah Bowen indicated the dollars the county receives from the N.C. Education Lottery should be enough to cover the cost of the new unit.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.