2017-04-27 / Local News

New facilities group meeting privately with consultant

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Work continues to examine Suttons Bay Public School facility needs and future use of unoccupied space at the north end of campus.

Superintendent Chris Nelson told the Board of Education on Monday that the Facilities Improvement Team (FIT) has met twice with representatives of Kingscott Associates of Kalamazoo to examine the physical plant and how it can meet the future needs of the district.

“The group (and consultants) have looked at the entire facility and we’re beginning to discuss priorities,” Nelson said.

FIT is an expanded version of a group that last year recommended a $14.2 million bond proposal to build a recreation center and pool in the former middle school wing of the complex. Much of that portion of facility has been closed due to a decrease in enrollment.

The board voted in November to place the proposal before voters in the May 2 election. However, trustees later withdrew the proposal after facing opposition from longtime residents and members of the agricultural community.

In addition to school staff, FIT was expanded to include stakeholders Tom Lhamon, who served on the School Board in the 1990s; Amy Coleman, who represents the agricultural community; and former School Board member Cindy Opie, who has three sons in the school system. Newly seated Trustee Jennifer Lewis is also a committee member.

“Based on the public response and the media portrayal (of the rec center plan), we feel this is the best way of doing it,” Nelson said.

However, concerns were expressed that the board could be delegating its authority to a non-elected group.

“It seems the group is making decision for the board,” Trustee Kim Eike said, questioning whether the committee must comply with the state Open Meetings Act. “I’m leery.”

The Board of Education has not voted to appoint members to the committee.

Nelson said the committee is meeting in closed session and updates will be provided to the board and posted on the school website

“Any decisions will be left up to the board. The group is trying to come up with a ‘best plan’ for the district,” Nelson said.

Eike also had questions about the committee’s lack of a “work plan.”

Nelson explained that no deadlines have been established by the committee.

“If you don’t have a work plan, you don’t know when you’ll get where you want to get,” Eike said. “My background is antithetical to that.”

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