Meeker school board votes 6-1 to hire bonding help

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MEEKER | The Meeker Board of Education held a special meeting Monday night to discuss the presentation from the George K. Baum & Company’s Denver office the board had at their work session last week. This presentation—focused on the investment banking firm’s ability to help the Meeker School District achieve success in funding the construction of a new high school and related facilities—was covered in our report on the board last week.

Before their discussion on bonding, the board honored their regular agenda item allowing for general public comment. Resident Mike Selle, a retired BLM archaeologist, spoke to the board about school safety. He told the board that, in his view, legislating against certain weapons solves no problems. He suggested school safety is “a people issue, how do we protect kids without turning schools into prison camps or gulags?”

On bonding, there was an unusual level of discussion about the GK Baum proposal. Board members had heard concerns over the past week about bringing in “outside” help. Board member Dave Smith expressed concern that some folks are still pretty raw about the public money spent and idea of the outdoor adventure center pursued by the county and Meeker town council, and their development of the special Urban Renewal Authority to facilitate funding and attract investors—an effort which has seemingly failed.

Superintendent Chris Selle emphasized to the board that the district would be contracting with Baum to engage district voters in the potential and need for bonding to renovate and replace Meeker High School.

“We are not contracting George K. Baum & Company,” Selle said, “to ‘sell’ a bond campaign for the school district. Out of respect to our voters, we owe them a complete and accurate understanding of our project with which to make their decisions, if a bond election were to become a reality. George K. Baum & Company has experience and expertise in engaging voters that the school district does not currently possess internally. George K. Baum & Company’s primary responsibility is to guide the district in its efforts to ensure our community has accurate, factual information.”

Board member Bob Dorsett questioned whether the approximately $30,000 to be spent on the Baum contract couldn’t be better spent on district programs and in the classroom. Selle reminded the board that this would be a one-time expenditure, not an ongoing annual expense like a new program, new teacher or the like.

Several board members expressed agreement with Dorsett’s doubts and especially his idea that certain students ought to be involved in reviewing the situation and helping the district achieve funding, possibly as some kind of ongoing class project.

Board member Tom Allen said he would be riddled with regrets if the board and the district didn’t get the district’s needs met, and they hadn’t sought out the help they could have to achieve their goals.

In the end, the board voted six to one to contract with Baum. Dorsett was the sole dissenting vote. With its vote, the board actually approved both public policy services and bond underwriting engagement agreements with Baum. The next regular school board meeting is Monday, March 26, at 7 p.m.