Action at a special meeting Wednesday evening of the Hays USD 489 school board came to an abrupt halt before it even got started.
Board member Greg Schwartz announced he wouldn’t agree to waive a statutory requirement that board members must get two days notice of a meeting.
Schwartz’s action was the latest in his efforts to stop USD 489 from approving the $2 million lease-purchase of Oak Park Medical Complex, 2501 E. 13th St., to relocate the district’s Head Start programs.
The meeting was called Wednesday morning by email. Board members expected to hear bids from four banks on the terms and interest rates of a loan for the complex to house the district’s Early Childhood Connections.
“I’m not going to waive notice so I don’t think we can take any action,” Schwartz said immediately after Board President Mandy Fox called the meeting to order.
Cox then addressed board attorney Michael Baxter of the Jeter Law Firm. “Michael? If Greg isn’t going to waive notice?”
“I’m looking,” Baxter said as he checked his cell phone. “The statute is very clear that two-day notice must be given unless it’s waived,” Baxter said, adding that without researching case law he didn’t know how the courts may have interpreted a refusal to waive notice.
Before quickly adjourning, Cox asked board clerk Sarah Wasinger to send out another meeting notice to board members as soon as possible.
Following the meeting, Schwartz repeated what he’s said previously — that he’s not convinced the project is a good idea.
“I’m opposed to the project,” Schwartz said. “We don’t have the information we need. We don’t have any information to go on at this point.” He’d like an appraisal of the property, as well as a long-range study to see how the property fits into the district’s long range plans.
Superintendent John Thissen has said the lease-purchase will take $250,000 out of the district’s capital outlay for 10 years.
“We haven’t identified what we’re going to be giving up by spending $250,000 a year to pay for this,” Schwartz said. “So I can’t make a decision without facts.”
The special meeting followed the board’s regular meeting Monday at which Schwartz was outnumbered by others who voted to accept a $1.5 million federal grant to renovate the complex of four buildings. The district has a June deadline for using the grant money.
Thissen said Wasinger on Tuesday sent out a meeting invitation on the scheduling app Doodle, asking board members if they had time to meet on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
“The reason we picked now was because the majority of the board picked this time, including Greg, who said he’d be here,” Thissen said. “That’s why we picked that. It could just as well have been Thursday or Friday.”
The meeting will be re-done, with the same information being presented, he said.
Board member Lance Bickle and Schwartz also each have said previously they’d like public input on the project.
Because the lease-purchase amount is more than $100,000, the public has 30 days to file a protest following publication of legal notice of the resolution. If 5 percent of the district’s qualified voters protest, the purchase would then be put to a public vote.
Fox, Vice President Mike Walker and board members Sophia Rose Young and Paul Adams previously voted in favor of entering contract negotiations.
Luke Oborny was absent from Wednesday’s meeting. Adams, who was out of town, attended via speaker phone.
ECC serves children eligible for Head Start, state pre-kindergartens and early childhood block grant in five classrooms at the former Washington Elementary, 305 Main. Center-based Head Start programs are housed in the former Munjor Elementary School, with about 22 students.
The Oak Park project would bring the programs to one location, vacating the former Washington Elementary, with the Munjor school reverting to the Catholic parish, St. Francis of Assisi.