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Firms hired for Bentonvillle facility projects

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BENTONVILLE -- The School District's warehouse and West High School stadium projects moved forward Monday with the hiring of firms that will work on them.

Hight Jackson Associates will be the architect and Flintco will serve as construction manager on the $3.7 million stadium project.

Classified raises

The Bentonville School Board voted 6-0 Monday to grant 2.25 percent raises to classified staff members. The raise doesn’t apply to about 69 bus drivers who were hired on a pay scale higher than what drivers are hired on today. Classified employees voted on whether to accept the raise; 545 voted for it and nine voted against it, according to Janet Schwanhausser, district finance director.

The board previously granted 2.25 percent raises to certified staff members, including teachers, last month. All raises are retroactive to July 1.

Source: Staff report

Both firms did the work on the rest of West High School, which was completed in July 2016. The stadium is seen as an extension of that project, which is why Hight Jackson and Flintco got the job, said Paul Wallace, the district's director of facilities.

Joe Quinn was one of two board members who voted against putting district money toward the stadium when the board voted on the issue last month. On Monday, however, Quinn said he was pleased with the financial approach the district is taking.

"We're guaranteeing the project comes in to the available dollars, instead of the other way around. So it's conservative fiscal management," Quinn said.

West High School's stadium, in its current condition, does not qualify to host varsity football games. The team plays its home games at Bentonville High School's Tiger Stadium.

The board in July committed to providing nearly $2 million to help finish the stadium. The board later approved using sponsorship contributions to the athletic department totaling $120,000 per year for 15 years to achieve the additional $1.8 million needed to complete the job.

The stadium is expected to be completed by August.

The board on Monday also unanimously approved hiring Hight Jackson Associates as architect and Crossland Construction Co. as construction manager to renovate the old Ambassadors for Christ Academy building into a warehouse.

The district bought the building in north Bentonville for $2.8 million. Officials have estimated it will require about $1 million to renovate it to suit the district's needs as a warehouse. Wallace said he expects the project to be completed by the end of June.

Meanwhile, the district's current warehouse at 1003 S. Main St. remains for sale. Two offers on the property -- both reported to have been for $1 million -- have been rescinded, Wallace said.

"We've had some other people, as early as last week, looking at it," he said.

The new warehouse, once completed, will offer more than four times the space of the current one. Expanding warehouse space has been high on the district's to-do list for the past 10 years.

In other business at Monday's meeting, the board decided by a 4-2 vote to hold its next board election in conjunction with the general election of Nov. 6.

Annual school board elections have been on the third Tuesday of September for decades. They now must be the same day as preferential primaries in the spring or the general election in November. The change is required under Act 910 of this year's legislative session.

Matt Burgess, Willie Cowgur, Eric White and Quinn voted for the November date. Brent Leas and Rebecca Powers voted against it. Travis Riggs, board president, was absent.

The Fayetteville and Rogers school boards decided last month to hold their board elections in May.

Act 910 sets forth that whichever date a board chooses, that board may not hold a special election for the remainder of the year seeking a change to the school district's millage rate.

Cowgur and Riggs said at the board's Nov. 6 meeting they preferred the November election date because they don't want the district to be restricted to the first few months of the year in case they wish to hold a millage election in the future.

Their comments caused some in the community to speculate the board intends to seek another millage increase soon, even though the district just passed a 1.9-mill tax increase in May. Such speculation is "absolutely false," Cowgur said.

"My intentions are to fulfill the five-year plan that we have, use the money from the millage that we have and really not have to look at anything for another five, six years," Cowgur said. "There's no indication we will have a millage based on the conversation regarding the May or November election."

NW News on 11/14/2017

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