Leader Blues

Monday, January 22, 2007

TOP STORY >>Cabot hoping for funds to rebuild school

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

The Cabot School Board hopes to find out by this spring if the state will provide millions of dollars in funding to rebuild Cabot Junior High North, which was destroyed in a fire on Aug. 10. The district’s insurance company has paid only $7 million, about half of the amount needed to rebuild the school, and the district is still hoping for a bigger settlement in the near future.
The school board on Tuesday added the school to the district’s master plan, in hopes of soon having enough money to start rebuilding the school.

Adding CJHN to the master plan, according to Superintendent Dr. Frank Holman, allows the district to apply for state funds to rebuild the school through a partnership program with the Arkansas Department of Education’s Arkansas Division of Public Schools Academic Facilities and Transportation Commission if the insurance company does not agree on a settlement.
The school district will know by May 1 whether it will get the needed funding through the partnership program to start the rebuild of CJHN.

The preliminary budget to rebuild the school puts costs anywhere between $14-$18 million and is expected to take two years to rebuild. With the partnership program, the cost of construction is shared between the state and school district in a 60/40 split, Jim Dalton, assistant superintendent, said. The district hopes to use the $7 million they have received from Great American Insurance Company of Ohio, the district’s insurance company, to pay their part.

“If we can use what insurance money we get to cover our entire portion, then we’d be in great shape for when we go through the partnership program and we can ask a waiver through the catastrophic to do that,” Dalton said. The district has also applied for the catastrophic program with the Commission, which, according to Dalton, will enable the district to use the insurance funds to pay the district’s share of construction in the partnership program. However, the district doesn’t know which program will be used at this time, Dalton said. “The final straw will be whether or not we settle with the insurance company in a couple of weeks or we go back with the engineers and architects and argue over what is salvageable,” Dalton said.

In regards to the 60/40 shared costs of construction, the district will take care of all construction bills as they come in and then submit the bills quarterly to the Commission for reimbursement as the project is going on, Dalton said. The decision to add CJHN to the master plan came after what Holman described as a “frustrating meeting” on Jan. 12 between himself and other members of the school district, the state insurance commissioner, engineers and architects and a representative from Great American.

Holman told the school board that no resolution had been made with Great American on an agreed upon price of construction and if the building is still useable. The district’s $100 million blanket insurance policy with Great American, which costs $123,000 annually, is up for renewal for the buildings and contents on June 30. CJHN’s fire has caused all school districts in the state to look at their policies and how their insurance is being done, Holman said.

“There’s probably going to be some legislation about what the minimum requirements for every district would be in their insurance policy. “Maybe that will help some people not to have to go down the same road we’re on,” Holman said. Board president David Hipp said they would go out for bids on a new insurance policy in the spring if nothing happens with the legislature.