THE CARVER SCHOOL STORM SHELTER COMMUNITY CENTER BUILDING

I have been in White Springs for eight years and in all these years there have been discussions to eliminate the Carver School and then the Council received information from Citizens to save the Carver School; Now we are in the process of building a new Community Center on the Carver School Site. Apparently instead of $160,000 the initial estimate for its demolition from Hamilton County, the County will demolish the building and provide the site work for free. Not only that, the County is willing to provide fill at no cost to the Town which is worth some $12,000 which the Town will not have to pay or deduct out of the $400,000 left after engineering costs, etc are paid. Mr. Bishop attended the meeting and stated from their and Jordan and Associates’s standpoint, everything is ready to move except that it is necessary for the council to determine if the upgrades need to be made.

This to me has been a joke. A beautiful hurricane proof building could have been built by a company handling modular buildings. There would have been no engineering costs and all the Town would have needed to do is determine the design and the building would have been built using the Grant Amount awarded of $600,000 instead of $400,000 now available. Then if we were short money for the building, easy installments would have been offered. Now, the additional upgrade amount we will need for a smaller building than one should ever anticipate will cost us $48,000. Some of the money the mayor stated, could be taken from the FRDAP Grant (here we go again), or begging First Federal, Duke Energy or Nutrient. In any event, it was elected to go ahead with the upgrades. Mr. Bishop stated that we need a June of 2020 completion and that we need a heating station for people, and an area for those on oxygen when the power goes out. We need a storm shelter because we promised a storm shelter and as a result Tommie is to call Mr. Bishop and advise him that we plan on going through with the upgrades.

Now this is how it started:

2014

Willy Jefferson for and on behalf of citizens at May Day who have requested something be done at the Carver School requested its disposition from the Council.

Apparently the contractor who fixed Jewett Street offered to take the Carver School down.  Other Citizens offered to take it down and what shocked me most is that the School Board has requested it be torn down by January 2016.   The problem at the time related to the removal of Asbestos. handling is a very serious matter and can have serious repercussions if the correct equipment is not worn as well as its materials handling.  PCS/ Nutrient provided the $13,000 to have the asbestos removed.

Initially the council decided that money must be put aside in the 2014-2015 FY  budget because the Town was contractually obligated.  Before, however, anything may be done it required an Asbestos Mediation of the Carver School.  Prior to demolition a certified demolition analyst must inspect and determine what kind of asbestos it is and to make a recommendation as to how to dispose of it.

At the time the Mayor paid the University of Florida for Studies of the Carver school Architectural Project of $25,845.83 . This money could have been used for other purposes but now we have historical information for our future museum. One of the councilors said it was paid without council approval but what was wonderful was the fact that PCS k/a Nutrient provided the $13,000 to have the Asbestos removed. 

2017

When someone rents the community center, Tonja and Rhett, if there is another Town activity, will steal your chairs and table basically trumping any person who paid the facility’s rent including stealing tables and chairs with a high and mighty attitude that they are the council Part of the problem is most of the time we do not have the money for the electrical, cooling and heating, like at the Eco Center, which I believe may also be rented out for events, Fortunately, the new council members would not allow the items to be stolen if the building is rented.

Willie wished to build the community center at the Carver School site because he hoped that his sidekicks Rhett and Tonja will again be re-elected as will he in the following year, What are we using the community center for since it is something to assist moderate and low income families?.  Will we require these people to pay for its rental? At the time advertisments in the newspaper in Gainesville and Lake City were not known to all the citizens and no mention was made that the Carver School would be demolished.

The officials previously didn’t care that low and moderate income people don’t have the money, and because the Town didn’t have the money, they’d probably just raise your water and sewer rates again, Wouldn’t it be better to facilitate families like a recreation facility, with pool tables, and electronic video games, television sets, weights, etc and possibly a pool?..Maybe it could be a children’s school by day and used by others at another time.  We really don’t know what it’s purpose is except to demolish the Carver School buildings and whether it will have a kitchen or furnishings or even be a meeting place We still don’t know if there will be money for chairs, tables and necessary furnishings including a generator and heating system. The cooling system is included. This has to be money in excess of the $48,000 now required for the hurricane proof upgrade.

I do not know why our Town has not considered preserving the Carver School by renovating it through a State Grant through the State of Florida.  The Carver School currently is listed as a State of Florida Historic Site and with all the history associated with the school, it is something which should be preserved.

Historic Preservation Grants Program Overview

The Historic Preservation Grants Program allocates state funds appropriated by the Legislature and federal funds apportioned to the state by the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, for the preservation and protection of the state’s historic and archaeological sites and properties. The program is administered by the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State and is governed by rules in Chapter 1A-39, Florida Administrative Code and Section 267.0617, Florida Statutes.

Two types of grants are awarded through this program: Small Matching Grants and Special Category Grants. Please see the respective pages for further information. 

Those eligible to apply for grant funding include state agencies, state universities, non-profit organizations, units of local government, cities, towns, and counties. Private property owners are not eligible for state grant funding from the Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources.

The perfect solution for the Carver School, once renovated,  would have been to provide classes for Kindergarten through fourth grade, so that there would be no transportation problems for younger students.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a school for our younger children so that they would not have to go by bus such a distance to the new elementary school? Not only that but it could be a historic site with actors assimilating how schools were handled in the day.

Rhett Bullard, our Town Manager, Willie Jefferson and Tonja Brown did not seem to care about our younger generation by reason of their not providing the after school program Instead Helen Miller had to provide a program for which we understand many of the Children were not from White Springs but rather from Suwannee and Columbia County. It was said that since the Town ruined Miller’s ability to secure a Grant because of the Be Faithful situation, that she was bad mouthed by the former council so that none of the Children would attend the HOPE program classes provided. That is definitely too bad. Except for Tonja, the new council members will work with the younger generation.

THE WILLIAMS FAMILY WROTE A LETTER TO SAVE THE CARVER SCHOOL FROM DEMOLITION

This is regarding the CDBG Grant, the demolition of the Carver School Building and a new community Center which Governor Scott vetoed.

Tonja Brown was in Stacy’s office discussing. Ms. Rivers noted that a letter was handed to Ms. Brown to read.  Then Ms. Brown blurted out “They can’t stop nothing, “ Rivers believed what they were discussing was the letter from Bernard and Nicole Williams. .

When Ms. Brown left, she dropped the note by the vent at River’s Desk and asked Tebo if she handed the note to Ms. Brown.

Ms. Tebo said the protest letter was supposedly written by Nicole and Bernard Williams, Nicole’s father.  Ms. Tebo’s comment to the attorney was “I know Ms. Williams’ capabilities and it doesn’t include the way that the letter was written.  That letter was written by Helen Miller, but I’m getting off point.”

NOTE THAT MS. TEBO IS INFERRING THAT THE WILLIAMS FAMILY, NIKKI WILLIAMS’ PARENTS WHO WERE EDUCATORS UNTIL THEY RETIRED, AND NIKKI HERSELF DO NOT HAVE THE INTELLIGENCE TO WRITE THE LETTER NOR DO THE RESEARCH.   I HAVE NEWS FOR MS. TEBO, WE ASSISTED NIKKI WITH THE RESEARCH FINDING THE SCHOOL WAS IN THE FLORIDA HISTORIC BUILDINGS.  THE BUILDING COULD BE REFURBISHED AND USED FOR A NUMBER OF THINGS. THE ASBESTOS HAS BEEN REMOVED; THE CONCRETE BLOCKS REMAIN.  IT NEEDS NEW ELECTRICAL AND PLUMBING AND A NEW ROOF.  HISTORIC BUILDINGS SHOULD NOT BE REMOVED BUT PRESERVED.   I HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF WHO WROTE THE LETTER BUT KNOW NIKKI WILLIAMS ADVISED THEY WERE WORKING ON IT.  I TAKE HOMAGE AND OFFENSE THAT YOU WOULD DARE SAY THAT THE WILLIAMS FAMILY DOES NOT HAVE THE EDUCATION TO WRITE A LETTER.  WE HAD INFORMATION ON THE BLOG AS WELL.  MANY OF US WERE FOLLOWING THIS AND JOE WROTE TO OUR SENATOR BILL MONTFORD AS WELL AS ELIZABETH PORTER’S OFFICE.  WE ALSO PROVIDED PHOTOGRAPHS OF ALL THE BUILDINGS, INCLUDING THE CARVER SCHOOL WHICH COULD BE REFURBISHED.  MS. TEBO STATED BY RECEIVING HAMILTON COUNTY’S ESTIMATE FOR DEMOLITION, THE TOWN COULD RECEIVE 25 POINTS…ONLY A FRAME BUILDING COULD BE BUILT AND IT WOULD NOT SERVE AS A SHELTER FOR A MERE $400,000.  BUT THE CARVER SCHOOL COULD BE FIXED PROBABLY FOR THAT AMOUNT IF WE COULD ALL GET TOGETHER..  ABOUT THIS AND THE STATE VIEWED THE SCHOOL WE WERE TOLD FROM ANOTHER SOURCE. JOE NOT ONLY WROTE LETTERS TO MS. TEBO ABOUT SAVING THE CARVER SCHOOL, BUT MS. TEBO WROTE BACK AND SAID WE HAD NO SAY.  THE TOWN OWNED THE BUILDING AND THE TOWN COULD DO WHAT IT WISHED TO DO WITH THAT BUILDING……OF COURSE THE CITIZENS HAVE NO RIGHTS IN MS. TEBO’S EYES.

Ms. Tebo said that she didn’t even think she gave Ms. Brown,  a copy of that letter at all but that Ms. Brown may have read it when she came into Tebo’s office.  Ms. Tebo stated she put in a CDBG’ application in to build a community center on the site of the old Carver School, which she stated is a black school which has been abandoned for many, many years and it’s been left to fall apart in Tebo’s words.

2019

At the May 13th Meeting, Mr. Ted O’Donnel, our Grant Writer, from Jordan & Associates, advised that with respect to our CBDG Grant for the Community Center and to build a Park, at the Carver School Property The Town needs to have the Hamilton County School Board remove a “Reverter” Clause.  We were told by Mr. O’Donnel that we need to apply for funding by completing the FRDAP application in August or September.

In 2011, the School Board agreed that the Carver School Property would be Deeded to the Town of White Springs if said property would be used for a community center or park.  That “Reverter” clause actually expired five years later in 2016.   No one noticed when White Springs had applied for the CBDG Grant in 2017 that the Town intended to demolish the Carver School and build a community Center if the Grant was awarded on Land which reverted back to the Hamilton County School Board, since neither an extension was made or a request to remove the clause.

The Hamilton County School Board met in their chambers in the administrative building on May 28th.  We already advised you that after Mayor Miller walked into the Chamber Room, Councilman and former Mayor Spencer Lofton became incoherent in his speech and stumbled for words talking about the award of $600,000 to build the community center to which Chairman Johnny Bullard indicated he had heard of the award.  Lofton then asked for a clause to be removed so the Town could have the Property but he stuttered and paused between words which seemed rather inarticulate for Lofton as if his mind was elsewhere.  He probably was worried that Helen Miller had not been contacted and that she could pull rank since it was not Lofton’s job to go before the School Board…only the Mayor or Vice Mayor in the  Mayor’s absence and of course, the Town Manager since she is the CEO per see..  

Ms. Tebo had originally written an email to the Hamilton County School Board requesting this information and stated she would come before the board, but did not show up for the meeting.  Instead Lofton and Councilwoman Tonja Brown came to the meeting to support each other in Tebo’s absence.

I then decided, since I wouldn’t put it past the Town of White Springs to apply for a FRDAP Grant, as seed money for the CBDG Grant, to contact FRDAP.  As some of you may be aware, the $600,000 will be insufficient to build a community center if we, as Tebo and former Mayor Rhett Bullard decided, that the Carver School would be demolished. HOWEVER, AFTER HAMILTON COUNTY DECIDED TO PROVIDE US FILL AND DO THE DEMO FOR FREE, WE STILL HAVE ENGINEERING AND GRANT WRITER COSTS WHICH ONLY ALLOW A $400,000 BUILDING. We understand Ms. Tebo asked for $400,000 from Senator Montford and Chuck Branford.  And of course, Ms. Tebo allowed Lofton to negotiate with the Montford and Branford staff members for the extra money, which is a violation of his position whether Mayor or Councilor since there was not full approval by the Town Council for him to negotiate for the additional money and there is no transparency as to where that matter stands.  He would not even provide Mayor Miller with information he has on his phone which is necessary because it is a matter of Public Interest.

One of the FRDAP Staff contacted Joe and of course confirmed there was no application than the recent Bailey Ogburn Baseball/Softball Park application for which the Town has been awarded $50,000 for improvements.  I was further advised that the Governor has not signed for any funding for FRDAP in this current year and it is expected no funding will be received. This is the Grant that we understand Mayor Miller wishes to take some funds from for the Community Center.

Joe then received another phone call from another Staff Member of FRDAP who advised that there is a problem with the Bailey Ogburn Park Grant in that they were not provided the appropriate paperwork.

Karin from the blog

P.S. Mayor Miller stated their HOPE O WEEN was successful with 75 young people attending.

In our sixth year of providing food and treats for everyone, this year we included toys and puzzles with candy treats and had approximately 200 children with their families.

So all and all the Trick and Treaters had an excellent night in White Springs no matter which event they went to.

Karin for the blog

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