BAKER — The Baker School Board on Tuesday agreed to extend and amend its contract with Tillage Management Services until June 30, 2020, for seeking reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for money the district spent repairing damage to its schools in the 2016 floods.
Board members Elaine Davis, Vanessa Parker, and Shona Boxie voted in favor of the measure with Sharlous Booker casting the dissenting vote. Joyce Burges was absent.
Under the contract, the board will pay Tillage $275,000 if the school district receives funds from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in reimbursement for money it has spent to remediate the flood damage to Baker High School and Baker Heights Elementary.
Since the flood damage to Baker High School, the high school students have been housed at Baker Middle with the middle school students occupying Bakerfield Elementary’s campus and Bakerfield students sharing space with Baker Heights Elementary.
The district will also pay Tillage $50,850 for submitting assessments mandated by FEMA to provide cost justification for $5.5 million the school system is seeking for rebuilding the high school, again contingent on the district actually receiving the funds.
Last year, the district paid Tillage $220,000 for grant management services, district financial manager Sydney Stewart said.
All grant management work must be preapproved by FEMA and the amounts paid to any grant management agency are set by the state, Superintendent Herman Brister said.
“If the board decides not to approve this contract, grant management will end on June 30 and the (school system) staff would have to get what we can," Brister said. "These people have the expertise that we frankly don’t have when it comes to dealing with GOHSEP and FEMA. … It can take months of back and forth to receive reimbursement.”
Although FEMA approves work sheets submitted by the school system or any other entity seeking disaster relief funds, GOHSEP ultimately releases the funds after the district submits detailed receipts, canceled checks and other documentation, he said.
Booker questioned whether the district could receive the same services from a different company at a lower price.
The work was bid out and 10 companies submitted proposals with Tillage being the lowest, Davis said.
Hiring a new firm would mean the current work being done would stop while new bids were sought, and likely no one would step up and offer a lower fee, Brister said.
The board also voted to amend its financial consulting contract with Faulk & Winkler, raising the company’s fee from $57,900 to $75,000 for assisting the district in applying for a $12.5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan to help pay for renovation of Baker High.
The low interest loan would allow the district to not only rebuild the school, but upgrade it, Brister told the board at its March meeting.
The board agreed to extend its contract with F&W until December 2020 as well, with the fee for that 18-month contract capped at $75,000.