03/13/09 — Duplin schools asking state for lottery money

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Duplin schools asking state for lottery money

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 13, 2009 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County school officials say they will soon make some badly needed school repairs, provided their $2.5 million share of the state's lottery funds has not been reclaimed by Gov. Beverly Perdue in her attempt to make up a severe budget shortfall.

An application for the money, signed by the chairmen of the school board and the county commission, was sent to the state Office of Management and Budget on Monday, hours after the county commissioners approved it. The school board approved the repair list March 3.

The school board is hoping the funds will still be available. And the school district's chief financial officer, Carolyn Olivarez, told commissioners it probably is.

"It's there, but they have redirected future interest and future payments from the lottery," she said. "It was open-ended. They didn't say when they would stop or when they would restore it."

Commissioner Zettie Wil-liams, who made the motion to approve the list, said she hopes it's not too late to get the drawdown approved. Reginald Wells gave the second. The vote was unanimous.

When Commissioner Fran-ces Parks asked Mrs. Olivarez why the school dictrict waited so long to apply for the lottery money, she explained that officials were waiting in case it was needed for future debt service payments.

"But there are so many pressing maintenance needs," she said. "The $2.5 million is only a part of our maintenance needs."

School maintenance director Bobby Norwood has received bids on the most pressing need -- bleacher repair and replacements to bring all the schools up to safety codes and standards to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But he can't award the contracts until the $202,000 for that project is in hand.

The next most urgent maintenance project on the school system's list is to install air conditioning in all the high school gymnasiums, which will cost $800,000.

Energy savings will result from other work, like replacing the windows at James Kenan and Wallace-Rose Hill high schools. The cost for those projects is estimated at $425,000.

More work at James Kenan to upgrade the heating and air conditioning and to install an electrical load management system will cost another $430,000, but will save money on energy in the long run, Norwood said.

And energy will be saved by spending nearly $334,000 to upgrade the heating and air conditioning system at Charity Middle School and to replace the boilers at East Duplin High School's main building.

But even after that's done, Mrs. Olivarez said, East Duplin will still need another $850,000 worth of work.