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School renovation payment explained to Wesson board

WESSON — Confusion over the payment process for servicesrendered at the Old Wesson School forced the board of aldermen tocall a special meeting Wednesday to clear things up.

“Today we got a request from the (Watson and) Cox architecturalcompany for a check and that brought several questions,” said WardFour Alderman Hollis Cowen Jr., who asked for the specialmeeting.

Cowen was concerned when the architectural firm working on theOld Wesson School asked for $17,000 from the town. Cowen said hewas upset because he was under the impression that the town wouldnot have to pay anything on the project.

He believed the $68,000 loan the town took out several monthsago was only to show that they could match their portion of a$340,000 grant from the Department of History and Archives.

Mayor Bill Tigner expressed frustration about the aldermensigning a contract without first understanding it completely.

“The grant agreements have been laying here since day one foranyone to read,” he said. “I’ll come up here every night, Mondaythrough Friday, to see this thing through.”

Tigner pointed out how his involvement in the project includedusing personal funds to fly to Washington, D.C., and Dallas, toseek funding for the project that will bring Saint AmbroseLeadership College to the town.

Tigner carefully went through the agreement again, fieldingquestions from Cowen and Ward One Alderman Robert Derrick.

He explained that the town would only have to use the loan moneytemporarily since it would be reimbursed upon meeting otherrequirements of the history and archives grant and the smallmunicipalities grant. Those grants are being used to fund the firstphase of the project to renovate the Old Wesson School.

The Department of History and Archives considers the $250,000small municipalities grant as a match for the history and archivesgrant. Therefore, all bills submitted to history and archives arepaid immediately, said Tigner.

“Once we have submitted $209,000 in invoices, the smallmunicipalities grant of $250,000 takes effect and we will bereimbursed,” said Tigner, adding that the town has alreadysubmitted half of that amount.

Tigner concluded by reiterating to aldermen that the town wouldonly be responsible for interest on the $68,000 loan in theend.

“OK, I’ve had a misunderstanding about something all along, butI think it just got cleared up,” said Cowen after theexplanation.

Alderman-at-Large David Douglas agreed that he also had a betterunderstanding of the payment process following Tigner’sinformational speech. Other aldermen also shook their heads inagreement, much to Tigner’s satisfaction.

“I apologize for my frustration earlier, but that’s all waterunder the bridge now. I’m glad everyone understands it,” saidTigner. “I know as a board we sometimes come to this table buttingheads, but I appreciate that we are able to shake hands and smilebefore we leave.”

After aldermen voted unanimously to pay the $17,000 bill, Tignertook the opportunity to update them on the progress of therenovation work.

He said the project was coming along on schedule, but he waslooking for more support from the community and Old Wesson Schoolalumni in funding window renovations for $500 each. This is aneffort to offset some of the costs.

Tigner added that the idea of the leadership college for 25 to30 male high school students was spreading across the state. Schoolofficials are looking at the possibility of doubling the number ofstudents and building a separate dormitory building behind the OldWesson School.