Thursday, December 13th, 2012
Meeting restrictions set for public
St. Marys school
By Amy Kronenberger
ST. MARYS - Public participation at school board meetings will be distinctly structured after a resident repeatedly has raised his voice and refused to cooperate during sessions.
Board members Wednesday unanimously agreed to modify the district's public participation policy to limit each speaker's time to three minutes. Previously, speakers were only limited to three minutes if several people wanted to talk. The board has a total public participation time of 30 minutes.
In addition to signing up to speak prior to the meeting, an individual now must write the topic he or she wishes to discuss. If the topic is too vague, the presiding officer will ask for clarification. If no suitable answer is given, the person will not be permitted to speak.
If someone wishes to read a written statement, that statement must be provided to the superintendent or presiding officer for review and approval 72 hours prior to the meeting.
If a person has spoken at a previous meeting on a specific topic and the board has addressed that topic, then that person will not be permitted to speak of it again.
"It's unfortunate that the board would have to take that kind of action, but regretfully, I think we must," board member Ralph Wiley said.
At the November meeting, resident Bob Valentine argued with superintendent Shawn Brown and board members over a conflict of interest issue involving board member Brian Little. Brown explained they would not discuss disciplinary actions in an open meeting, to which Valentine raised his voice and continued to talk after being asked to stop.
Wiley then terminated the public participation segment of the meeting, denying another individual from speaking.
"We had a resident who was denied speaking to the board because I terminated the public participation section because of the behavior of another individual," Wiley said Wednesday. "That in itself is really disappointing."
Wiley also said he regretted that many children attended the meeting that night and witnessed the scene.
Board members have had issues with Valentine in the past and have threatened to have a police officer remove him from the premises.
In other action, the board passed a resolution approving final ballot language for a combined 5-mill property and 1 percent earned income tax levy.
The five-year levy will be placed on the May 7 primary ballot and would bring in $3.25 million per year. Earned income tax does not include Social Security, pensions or other incomes not earned through employment.
Board members last month agreed to move forward with the levy as finances are predicted to go in the red next year. Cuts, most through attrition, are planned for next year.
The levy was certified by Auglaize County auditor Janet Schuler. The deadline to certify the levy with the board of elections is Feb. 6.
If the levy passes, collection on the property and earned income taxes would begin Jan. 1, 2014. If it fails, the board could try again at the Aug. 6 special election.
Board member Ronda Shelby on Wednesday introduced Lisa Howe and Kristina Keller as the co-chairs for the levy committee.
"They both have children in our school system and both are very dynamic people with great energy," she said. "We are just so thankful, and we're glad you're a part of us."
Howe and Keller said they volunteered for the job because of the children.
"I just see the importance," Keller said. "I think our school will be in great financial trouble if this levy doesn't pass. I volunteer two days a week at the school and I see all the good things this school has to offer ... I don't want to see the school lose any of that."
District business manager Kurt Kuffner said 12 different masonry contractors requested bid packages to replace the middle and high school's split faced block with brick. Bids will be opened at 1 p.m. Jan. 9 and a recommendation likely will be made to the board during its regular February meeting.
The estimated cost of the project is $1.7 million, and who is paying for the work has not been determined.
When building the $36.5 million school in 2010, officials were told to expect some efflorescence - a common, white powdery crystalized substance - on the blocks on the outside of the building. School officials were told the natural chemical reaction of moisture with the porous block is common on new buildings and easily scrubs off.
However, after many different cleaning attempts, the white blooms remain.
Consultants have been contacted by the school board and Ohio School Facilities Commission to determine if the efflorescence was caused by the design of the wall system, the material provided or the installation of the masonry. If the cause is from faulty building material, the district will enter into litigation to determine how much each entity will pay to replace the blocks, school officials have said.
Also at Wednesday's meeting, board members,
• renewed the $250 membership with the Ohio School Board Association 2013 Legal Assistance Fund.
• scheduled the new year's organizational meeting for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at the high school auditorium. The regular monthly meeting will follow.
• approved board president Lisa Tobin as president pro-tem to run the organizational meeting.
• scheduled the annual school board tour of the facilities for 7:30 a.m. Feb. 4.