MIDDLE CREEK - Suspense hung in the air as those in attendance at Monday evening's Floyd County Board of Education meeting waited for the announcement of the final decision in regard to the site selected by the board for the new Prestonsburg/Clark Elementary School.
Prior to the announcement that the Clark Elementary School property site, located on Middle Creek, had been chosen over the Prestonsburg site due to, primarily, acreage considerations, a few locals were given a last opportunity to voice their opinions in regard to the site selection.
Debra Holland, a teacher from Prestonsburg Elementary, urged the board to consider the Prestonsburg site for a variety of reasons, but stressing the safety of students as the most important factor. Prestonsburg Elementary is located adjacent to the Prestonsburg Fire and Police Departments.
John Rosenberg, a local attorney and member of the Clark Elementary School community, informed the board that his neighborhood would be "happy with the school being here," while Barbara Hale, of Blue River, commended the board on their "good efforts" and said that she "trusted" that the forthcoming decision would be based on "what's best for the children."
The board received all comments before Carol Stumbo, chair, made a motion to recommend approval of the Clark Elementary site for the construction of the new school, saying that the Prestonsburg site had been shown to be "inadequate." Board vice chair Jeff Stumbo seconded the motion.
Board member Mickey McGuire, District 1, asked permission to address his fellow board members, displaying numerous photographs depicting heavy flooding on the selected site. The photographs showed the school parking lot, playground and adjacent fields submerged with floodwaters.
McGuire pointed out that not only was the Middle Creek property open to potential flooding, but that parking complications were also an unforeseen factor to be considered.
"If Prestonsburg is an inadequate site, then I'm afraid that this one is, too," McGuire said.
"Furthermore," McGuire continued, "I know of no other elementary school in Kentucky with 700 students. This may well be the biggest elementary school in the state ... I have great and serious concerns (in regard to the construction of a new school), regardless of whether it is on this site or another."
Board member Glenna Slone, district 5, commented that she felt that both Prestonsburg and Clark schools were "excellent" schools and that "bringing the two together can only be a good thing." Slone said that she felt that McGuire was working, in essence, to "try to slow the project down."
"I can't slow it down, Glenna," McGuire retorted, "and you can't speed it up, there's no money (in the state educational budget)."
"Mickey, there will be money in the state budget," Carol Stumbo asserted.
"Well, the governor doesn't seem to know when that will be," McGuire responded.
Jeff Stumbo then entered the fray, saying that it didn't matter where the school was built "as long as it's an adequate site." "We have an obligation to the children of this community, and to the taxpayers, as to what we do with their money ..." Jeff Stumbo said. "I think Clark is an adequate site."
Bobby Carpenter, zoning enforcement official for the city of Prestonsburg, then threw a monkey wrench into the proceedings, addressing the board and telling them that "a decision cannot be made tonight ... because all of the (zoning) issues have not been resolved."
Carpenter also said that his office had logged "about 75 calls from people concerned about the floodplain issue with Clark. I have also been given a petition here tonight with the signatures of more concerned citizens."
"I have not seen the plan," Carpenter said. "I cannot take that information to the zoning board."
Carpenter said that regardless of what site was chosen, "the site you choose will go through the same review process ... the same criteria will apply."
Carol Stumbo then asked Carpenter if he was saying that the plan could not "move forward." Carpenter informed her that he was.
Jeff Stumbo then brought to light some concerns that he had upon reading an article in another newspaper that reported that the Prestonsburg City Council had been involved in discussions surrounding the proposed new school sites. Stumbo then proposed a motion that said, in effect, that if the new school could not begin construction "within a permissible time period" that allocated state funding would be in danger of being relinquished by the county school system and returned to the state.
McGuire responded to Jeff Stumbo's proposal, and to the board's acceptance it, by saying that the action was that of an "immature board wanting to fight like children with the city (of Prestonsburg)."
"You have kept Clark waiting with a leaking roof. You have not worried about Prestonsburg Elementary and their flooded basements and fungus ... You have not worried about those kids," McGuire said to his fellow board members. "This immaturity is exactly why this board needs to be replaced,. This motion says nothing more than we are willing to cost these children this school if we can't build it where we want to ... We'd simply rather forfeit the money."
Monday's meeting was held at Clark Elementary School and all board members were present.