SCHOOL OKS MONEY FOR BOY'S RANCH EXPANSION

August 16, 2000 12:00 am

By Todd Wels

Triplicate staff writer

The school district will pay $45,000 for building renovations at Bar-O Boys Ranch.

Despite the strenuous objections of one of its members, the Del Norte County Unified School District Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to utilize equipment reserve funds to fund construction of a pitched roof and storage area on the ranchs school facility.

The roof and storage area were part of $300,000 in budget cuts made to the Bar-O renovation project, after bids for the project exceeded the projects more than $1 million budget, according to Ranch Director Al Smith, who was present at Tuesdays meeting.

Other cuts involved using boys at the ranch as a workforce on the project.

Smith and County Administrative Officer Ben Angove appealed to the school district last week for funding to buy back the roof and storage area improvements to the school.

With only three members present at Thursdays scheduled meeting, the board voted to table the matter until Tuesday.

In proposing that Bar-O receive the funding for the renovations, Superintendent Walt Hanline acknowledged the frustration expressed by several board members at the last meeting.

This is a county responsibility, Hanline said. I dont deny that reality.

According to the districts contract to provide services at Bar-O, the county is responsible for providing buildings and maintenance, while the district provides equipment and instruction.

Board members Faith Crist and Bob Berkowitz were most vocal in arguing for the funding.

Crist pointed out that the district receives state money for providing services to Bar-O. That amount is greater than it receives for normal students, because of the higher risk factor at Bar-O, a minimum-security facility for juvenile offenders.

She also stated that failing to fund the improvements could have negative consequences at the ranch.

If they cant do it, its going to hurt the teachers and the kids, she said.

Berkowitz said he had few qualms about assisting the county with the improvements.

I think youre going to see more collaborative efforts like this as we go forward, he said. We need to be able to work together.

Board member William disagreed.

Let the county borrow money for their projects as we have for ours, Parker said, pointing to the districts recent purchase of property north of Bess Maxwell Elementary School, in which it borrowed $250,000.

He also disputed Angoves statement that Its two agencies but it is one community; their kids are our kids and our kids are their kids, pointing out that many of the boys at Bar-O are brought in on contract by other counties.

They are not all our kids, Parker said.

He also argued that funding the project would unnecessarily disrupt the districts budget.

I dont think we can jiggle the budget, he said.

The board voted 3-1 to fund the project, with Parker casting the dissenting vote.

Board member Steve Parke was absent from the meeting.

The $45,000 that will be used to fund the improvements was initially earmarked for equipment at the school.

That loss will be mostly offset by funding from a Digital High School Grant and other sources, according to Hanline.

I dont see us coming up short in any essential needs at Bar-O, he said.

Smith said he was happy that the school board came through. I think it will be nice for everyone.

Construction of the school facility is scheduled to begin in mid-September.