June 28, 2012

Akron-Westfield School Board takes no action on wind turbine offer

by Julie Ann Madden | The Akron Hometowner | akronhometowner.com

The Akron-Westfield School Board had three decisions to make regarding its wind turbine at their June 11 meeting.

First was to consider a consulting proposal from First Priority Consulting Group owners Dr. Harold Prior and his son, Mike.

Dr. Prior had been president of Iowa Lakes Community College when a collegiate wind turbine program was implemented. In 2007, he and his son founded the Iowa Wind Energy Association.

They were interested in providing the district with a “second opinion” on the wind turbine’s operating condition and helping with any future sell and/or lease agreements as well as lobbying legislators on the district’s behalf.

Superintendent Larry Williams told the board it would have been great to have such consultants nine months ago but some of the consultants’ work now may be redundant. The Priors were willing to modify their contract proposal to prevent redundancy.

The board took no action on their proposal.

Second, the district had received a “concrete offer” through the district’s broker, Joe Graham of Blue Sky Wind and Dan Moore, the attorney they hired to negotiate wind turbine offers.

After discussing the matter in closed session, the board took no action on the offer.

Williams also informed them the district had received a second offer just that afternoon but he would be unable to look into it as it was his last day of employment.

Third, Western Iowa Tech Community College had lost its contract with MidAmerican Energy of Sioux City whereby their students could have first-hand opportunities to be on wind turbine sites and in and around wind turbines. Therefore, they were seeking to partner with the Akron-Westfield School District for access to the school’s wind turbine.

According to Williams, he had already received college students’ liability waiver agreements for all students in WIT’s wind turbine program.

Board Member Deb Jordt made a motion to approve an access and use agreements, including the use and access of the wind-powered generator, and the waiver agreements. The motion was seconded by Board Member Roger Oetken. Then Oetken motioned to amend it to “adopt the precise wording of the district’s insurance carrier.” Board Member Jodi Thompson seconded the amendment. Both the motion and amendment votes were unanimous, 5-0 with Board Members Nick Schoenfelder and Phil Parks absent. The next step is for the Western Iowa Tech Board to approve the agreements.

In other business, the Board:

• Learned it was suggested to change staff leave from a minimum of a one-fourth day to a half-day minimum in the Support Staff Handbook. The reasoning was that it is hard to find substitutes for one-fourth of a school day.

If a substitute cannot be found, then the principals must cover the absentee’s classes, and this is sometimes difficult with principals’ responsibilities and may become harder with only a half-time superintendent this Fall.

It was noted the employees’ Master Contract does not allow other staff to cover for another staff’s absence.

It was also noted that not all employees’ contracts needed to be the same. At this time, some contracts have “one-fourth” day and others have “one-half” day.

This change would involve approximately 20 support staff employees and about 10 para-educators.

Other districts have a minimum of “half day” leaves, said Grades Preschool-6 Principal Cathy Bobier.

Williams suggested board do the second reading on the Support Staff Handbook, then next month have administration come back with some suggestions, including the pros and cons of each suggestion.

• Formed a committee to begin lobbying district’s constituents to approve a voter-approved Physical Plant & Equipment Levy (PPEL) tax. Board Members Jordt, Oetken and Josh Martinsen volunteered. Williams suggested they meet before the end of June with the district’s School Improvement Advisory Committee and Parent-Teacher Association as well as recruit volunteers.

The committee will recommend a purpose statement, which explains what the PPEL tax revenues can be spent on as well as develop a plan to promote this tax.

• Unanimously approved a contract with Western Iowa Tech Community College to offer A-W students Concurrent Enrollment courses, which replaces the Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) course offerings.

Using WIT’s Concurrent Enrollment courses, the district will save about $1,000 this year. The net cost will be $11,250 for students taking approximately 50 courses, Grades 7-12 Principal Derek Briggs told the board.

This vote was 4-0 as Jordt stepped out of the room for a moment.

• Unanimously approved by a vote of 5-0 an Early Start Calendar waiver. The state requires districts to pass this if they want to start classes before Sept. 1.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/06/28/akron-westfield-school-board-takes-no-action-on-wind-turbine-offer/