With two members not present to vote on it Monday night, the Hays USD 489 school board failed to approve a bid to replace infrastructure for special systems at Hays High School this summer.
The vote on the $129,337 bid from Nex-Tech was three to two in favor. However, state statute requires a majority of the full membership of the board for a motion to pass. For the seven-member Hays school board, that means four votes.
Board member Greg Schwartz was absent and Luke Oborny stepped out of the discussion, citing a conflict of interest as he is employed by Nex-Tech.
Board President Mandy Fox and board member Lance Bickle voted against accepting the bid, with Board Vice President Mike Walker and members Sophia Rose Young and Paul Adams voting in favor.
The project would replace cabling used to synchronize clocks throughout the building and the intercom system at Hays High. At the same time, the district would replace cables for the phone system and security cameras that would allow for future upgrades, Rusty Lindsay, director of buildings and grounds for the district, said.
The base bid for the project was the cost of the infrastructure improvements. An alternate, additional amount included an estimate for upgrading the camera system, but was just used to gather estimates. The bid did not include costs for upgrading the phone system.
Fox said she did not have enough information to convince her the project was needed now, and after the vote, instructed Lindsay to bring estimates on the phone system to the board.
She said she felt the same way about her vote at the March 25 meeting on replacing student devices at Hays Middle School.
“It wasn’t because I don’t think we need those, and it wasn’t because I don’t think that’s something that needs to be fixed. My problem with voting on some of these things to move forward is that I don’t understand that this is the greatest need for that building, for the district, at this point in time,” she said.
“That’s why I voted against the technology a few weeks ago, and why I’m hesitant now, too, because I don’t know if this $130,000 is the greatest need for Hays High or for anywhere else in the district at this point,” she said.
Lindsay said the clock system controls part of the building’s HVAC system, and that has caused some failures in the HVAC this year.
“We lost, actually, the entire building just because of one relay in the system that we didn’t know it was even tied into that HVAC system. We really need to get that stuff separated out so that we have control of it in one way,” he said.
The greater concern, however, is the school’s phone system, he said.
“It’s past its life, and it’s not being supported anymore,” he said. Problems with support of voicemail and caller ID prompted the entire project, he said.
“Nex-Tech came to look at it. They didn’t really want to mess with it, because they were afraid that if they did, they’d actually make it worse and we would be without a phone system,” Lindsay said.
Replacing the phone system is not in the budget for the current fiscal year, however.
“We haven’t even talked about having the budget even for next year. That’s not been a discussion. We don’t know when it will be,” Superintendent John Thissen said.
“But we also know that there’s the possibility that we could get into the school next year and have a catastrophic issue with our phones,” he said.
Replacing the phone infrastructure over the summer would allow the district to replace the phone system quickly if there is a failure, Thissen said.
“Then why don’t we have a bid on the phones?” Fox asked.
Lindsay said he was still investigating the options of buying versus leasing and planned to approach the board in the fall of which option to pursue.
“Regardless of what we do with the phones, this infrastructure’s gotta be in place first,” he said.
“The phone system that we currently have, if it fails, we’re going to be replacing that phone system. And with the way it’s currently wired, it’s going to basically limit us to one type of phone system,” he said.
“We could fix it probably pretty fast,” Thissen said. “We’d be putting a lot of money into something that we’re not happy with for the future.”
Bickel asked if the infrastructure project was one that district staff could do to save money. Lindsay said the staff is already committed to projects over the summer, including the Oak Park renovation and replacing all the locks throughout all the buildings — more than 500 of them.
Fox said having ranking system of facilities needs would be beneficial. Young agreed.
“I wish there was an easier formula for us as board members to be able to know the priorities of what’s happening,” she said.
“I don’t like to put out fires. I like to plan,” Fox said, but acknowledged she understood that’s the position Lindsay finds himself in.
“I’ve got a four- or five-year capital outlay plan, and I brought it in before. Some of them I’m still on task with. The other pieces of it have changed on me,” he said.
One example was roof replacements, he said. Two years ago, Lindsay said the plan was to replace the roof over the classroom section of the middle school, then the gym and cafeteria.
“And Roosevelt’s roof starting having failures, so all of a sudden that plan switched from being complete middle school to Roosevelt falling halfway in between that. That’s part of the problem with having systems that are all about the same age throughout the entire district,” he said.
In other business, the board passed a $102,950 bid from Commercial Builders to construct safe entrances for the high school and middle school. Just over $86,000 will be paid for by grants.