Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Joplin R-8 and the $24 million gamble

When Joplin R-8 CFO Paul Barr announced a couple of months ago that the district's reserves had skyrocketed from 10 percent to 26 percent, you couldn't blame taxpayers for being skeptical.

As it turns out, that 26 percent total is based on the tissue-thin premise that the district is going to be totally reimbursed for all of the claims it has turned in to FEMA and SEMA on the building projects- including $24 million worth of what has been termed as "overages, errors and omissions."

"Overages, errors and omissions" is just what it sounds like- mistakes that were made on the local level, or things that were added to the original plans as the building projects were underway. At this point, the district is not guaranteed of receiving a penny, though that outcome is highly unlikely.

Barr told the R-8 Board of Education Tuesday night that district officials will meet with FEMA one week from today, Wednesday, December 2. "FEMA has allowed us to come up and explain our submittals so they have a full understanding of our claims."

Barr said the omissions on East Middle School are in the $8 million neighborhood, with $16 million for Joplin High School and Franklin Tech.

The session with FEMA will involve the district officials going over the differences between the items that were originally approved and the changes the district made without consulting the agency during the building process. "We're informing them of things we think they missed," Barr said.

All FEMA and SEMA claims have to be submitted by May, the board was told. "We plan to have everything submitted well ahead of time."

District officials were well aware that they were going to go beyond the FEMA specifications even before the 2012 bond issue passed. During a March 2012 meeting in the library at the warehouse that was being used as East Middle School, former Superintendent C. J. Huff, while explaining the bond issue to teachers and staff,, revealed the approach he was planning to take. That meeting (and I have a recording of it) is featured in my book, Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado:

One question that was on the minds of East faculty was why the new East had to cost so much more than the old one. The East that had been torn down following the tornado had only been in service for two years and had some empty rooms because it had been designed to be ready for any increase in student population. It was a state-of-the-art building when it opened and surely things had not changed that much in so short a time.

Huff anticipated the question. “East will be bigger because we’re smarter now than we were a couple of years ago. There’s no shame in that.”

Much of the cost would be borne by FEMA, but some of the things Huff’s team had planned would cost more than FEMA was prepared to pay.

“We’ll do some arm twisting” Huff said, “and they just might pay for what we need.”

We will find out about that in the near future.


Anonymous said...

Any time Barr is bluffing (a polite way of saying lying), he stammers and stutters and turns colors. He was stammering and stuttering all the way through this disgraceful report, and he was a shade pink, so to speak. What happens if FEMA and SEMA don't approve of those tennis courts and turfed practice fields, ugly chandeliers and hospitality rooms? What excesses have been done at the other schools, such as the stairs to nowhere? The American and Missouri taxpayer is under no obligation to pay for these ridiculous expenditures. They don't advance learning, which is what taxpayers are obligated to provide. If they pay this, then they are obligated to pay for any egotistical outrages stemming from every disaster from now on. East, as has been presented on the Turner Report before, did not even merit a total rebuild. Greed ran rampant here, and now we must all pay for the shoddy craftsmanship that the district cannot afford to repair.

I hate to think what is ahead for Joplin Schools thanks to its previously inept administration and school board if this is not paid. The people who are still there are the ones who will have to pay for the greed of the group before. And yet, they still show up shamelessly at school events and Board meetings like they own the place and are wanted (they are not), and Huff still posts on Facebook like he's still super. He did take his ugly posts down from the election, but it's too late. We have copies. Are they planning a comeback? We'll make sure all the evidence is presented, if so, before they can do further damage in Joplin. We have not forgotten, and we never will.

Anonymous said...

We have the absolute ugliest high school campus I have ever seen.

How could people have voted for it? Did you not look at the plans? Somebody please explain.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Ridder are you aware.
This construction binge wasn't on your watch. But you can give us the truth about these overages. If FEMA denies the extra millions then level with the community. We can take it. Did Dr. Huff go on a crazy shopping spree? We need honesty and are counting on you.

Anonymous said...

I went ahead and bought the Lamborghini and Gulfstream VIi because I know this lotto ticket is going to pay off!!!

Anonymous said...

Did the district exclude an amount for projected legal expenses and liabilities from the reserve calculation? The money "owed" for the high school's expedited electrical work would have a material impact on the reserve given an adverse outcome to the litigation. Perhaps enough so as to imperil the district's ability to service it's debt and maintain it's credit rating.

Bile E Long said...

Uncle Sugar comes through or it's Obummer's fault!