Today is Monday, August 21, 2017

McFarland addresses issues with former LHS renovation

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The exact dates and events leading up to the recent commission meeting are extensive and too numerous to go over in this letter. I invite anyone interested to contact me and I will provide all the background information including photographs that I have. The concise issues I am attempting to address and resolve are as follows:

  1. The County Commission authorized the "constructing, improving, renovating and equipping" of the old Lebanon High School in order for it to be used as the new central office for Wilson County Schools. The Board of Education authorized the "abatement and renovation project at new central office." Webster's defines "renovate" as to restore to a former better state. Instead, the school system issued purchase order #20160701-000 for "abatement and demolition" of the site. Webster's defines "demolish" as to destroy. Who gave the school administration authority to arbitrarily decide to spend $479,900 of taxpayer's money for an unapproved project?
  2. When the Director of Schools Donna Wright was questioned about the apparent demolition of the old Lebanon High School, and specifically regarding the removal and stacking of the gym floor, she stated that School Board Member Wayne McNeese had made the motion to do so during their October 2015 meeting. I talked to Mr. McNeese on May 10th of this month and he said he did not make the motion and had not even heard of the proposal until it was brought up and passed at the May 2, 2016, school board meeting. So the school administration has engaged in the demolition and removal of the gym floor six months prior to having it authorized by the Board of Education. It is generally bad practice to engage in activities using taxpayer's money for unauthorized projects that you don't even bother to get approved until six months after they are completed.
  3. Lastly, during the May 5th Education Committee meeting, I found out that Wilson County School Administrators had put technology purchases (computers) in their FFE line item (furniture, fixtures and equipment). That is not illegal. However, it is a terrible waste of taxpayer money as FFE line items are paid for out of a 20-year bond issue. As the school system itself states that most of the technology they purchase is considered obsolete after 3 years, why would they purchase computers with this money when it means Wilson County citizens are paying for computers for 17 years after they are declared obsolete and are no longer used? These purchases should be made from Wilson County School's fund balance which, when I checked last, was at $13,000,000.

This whole event started with a flagpole. A concerned citizen asked me what had happened to the old Lebanon High School flagpole? When I went to the site to investigate, I not only saw and took pictures of the flag pole torn down and tossed aside, I found a site undergoing full demolition, not renovation. As a public servant, it is my responsibility to ensure that Wilson County citizen's money is spent honestly, transparently and intelligently. What I have found leaves me fundamentally convinced that it is not being spent that way. I want all of our children to have the best education that we can provide and our teachers to have the best pay we can afford, but I also want integrity in Wilson County Government and that includes the Wilson County School System administration.


Jerry McFarland

Wilson County Commissioner, District 5

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