Monday, March 09, 2009

TOP STORY >> District to get country club bill for party

Leader senior staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District patrons are being asked to pick up the tab for a $2,753 groundbreaking reception at the Maumelle County Club two nights before the ceremonial groundbreaking for a new Maumelle high school.

The country club has submitted a bill that included $850 for room rental, $1,195 for “banquet food,” miscellaneous charges of $108, plus $172 in sales tax and a $430 gratuity—that’s 20 percent of the before-tax cost.

The reception was hosted by school board president Tim Clark, who represents Maumelle.

It was not immediately clear what the miscellaneous charges were for. Clark said he didn’t know. A message left on the answering machine at the club was not returned.

School board member Mildred Tatum said she could find plenty of better uses for $2,753. She said two bathrooms at Fuller Middle School are out of order. A ceiling tile fell in one and hit a child. “They are using money I can use for my kids,” Tatum said. “The College Station parking lot is ridiculous. I’m upset and trying to be calm.”

No action at any board meeting authorized the party or the expenditures, according to Tatum, who was board president until deposed and replaced by Clark, Maumelle’s new board member.

The district doesn’t have a history of paying for groundbreaking receptions, said Tatum, who has been on the board for more than 20 years.

It was Clark who submitted the bill for payment to the district. It will now apparently have to be approved retroactively by the board.

“I don’t know why that’s news,” Clark said Thursday. “It’s not news until it hits the agenda.”

“For all you now I’m going to pay for it,” he said.

He said payment of the bill would be on the agenda for approval, and characterized it as “part of the groundbreaking,” an opportunity for constituents in the zone to be involved and meet the architects, Wittenberg, Deloney and Davidson.

“I got a call from Tim Clark, who asked if I could call the club and make a reservation for a reception associated with the ground-breaking to thank everyone involved,” said PCSSD spokesman Craig Douglass, whose name appeared on the bill submitted by Jeff Frazil, general manager of the Maumelle Country Club.

Douglass said he ran a notice in the Maumelle newspaper inviting area residents to the reception and groundbreaking. “Beyond all that, I don’t know.”

Douglass, who has been a contractor for the school district for about three years, said he didn’t recall a similar reception or bill to the district.

If the usual voting blocs prevail, the board could authorize payment of the bill by a 4-3 vote, with Clark, Gwen Williams, who represents the poorest part of the district; Bill Vasquez, who represents most of Jacksonville; and Charlie Wood, who represents Sherwood, voting in favor.

Likely to vote against are Shana Chaplan, representing West Little Rock; Danny Gilliland, representing parts of Sherwood and Jacksonville; and Tatum, who represents the area including College Station and Wrightsville.