By ALICIA LEONARD
Trustees for Northwest Florida State College met in a special session on May 19 to respond officially to Governor Charlie Crist’s request for the return of public education capitol outlay (PECO) funds (secured by Rep. Ray Sansom) and to award a contract for a water tower.
The trustees unanimously approved a letter of response to Crist’s request for the return of PECO funds awarded by the Florida Legislature for a planned emergency response center in Destin. In the response, the trustees stated that they will work “with the Division of Community Colleges, Office of Facilities Planning and Budgeting and appropriate legislative staff to reduce the 2010 PECO allocation associated with another NWFSC project by $310,000” in order to “respect the original legislative process, keep the transactions within a single funding category and minimize the potential for a negative impact on students, programs and services specified in the college mission.”
Interm President Jill White said, “A reduction in our PECO appropriation by the Legislature will allow those PECO dollars to be available to others. And, by properly keeping the reimbursement transaction in the same funding category, the impact on students and college programs is minimized.The governor’s office and the college have the same goal — to minimize impact on students and programs while the trustees honor the governor’s request for reimbursement of funds.”
On April 28, turstees voted to suspend plans for the response center “indefinitely” and Joe Lorenz, attorney for the board, indicated that he had followed the board’s request and sent a letter to Okaloosa County attorney Jim Dowd and Destin Jet attorney Matthew Gaetz requesting release from the three-party lease for the county owned land at the Destin Airport.
In other news, the contract for the water tower was awarded to the lowest bidder during a competitive bid process. Phoenix Fabricators came in under two other companies at $747,800. The need for the 150-foot water storage tank on the Niceville campus had been recommended by local water entities and the college engineer due to safety concerns over low water pressure. The 200,000 gallon tank will be located near the ball fields on the southwest corner of the main campus. The construction was previously approved by the trustees as part of the college’s capital improvement plan. Construction is set to begin as soon as possible and is estimated to take close to 240 days to complete.
The trustees held a special business meeting May 26 to consider a petition for evidentiary hearing to the board by Dr. Bob Richburg, who was terminated from his position as college president in a 4-3 vote by the trustees.
The trustees voted to approve the administrative request by Richburg and enter mediation, 4-2. Trustees Esteena Wells and Brian Pennington voted against mediation, with the only other option being a court trial. Per the college, “the board authorized Lorenz to contact Richburg’s attorney with a proposed agreement to enter mediation and scheduled another board meeting for June 2 at 10 am to address any response as both parties must agree to mediate.” The Herald will have an in-depth article on the May 26 meeting in next week’s edition.
Alicia Leonard can be contacted at email@example.com.