After hearing from citizens and Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin, the Dolores School Board approved a contractor for a school-based health clinic.
The motion was made by District Re-4A Board President Dee Prock to approve Weeminuche Construction Authority. The motion passed 3-1, with board Treasurer Casey McClellan voting against it.
The clinic has been a point of contention for board members and Dolores citizens since the district received a $25,000 planning grant from the Colorado Department of Health to design a clinic in March 2017.
At the May 10 meeting, Nowlin presented the findings of his investigation, stating, “We only deal with facts and not opinions, so this will be a summary of what was found in that complaint.”
Nowlin reported that a unidentified citizen had claimed that the district, under Superintendent Scott Cooper, had incorrectly estimated the district’s required number of students qualifying for “Free/Reduced lunches,” a stipulation required by the grant.
“Sara Geone (director of grant operations of the Colorado Health Foundation) told the investigator that the foundation did not require Dolores School to have 50 percent of their students to be eligible for free and reduced school lunches,” Nowlin read from the report. “She said 41 percent was acceptable to them and was really only part of the evidence they use to determine eligibility for this grant.”
Nolwin added that Geone also noted that students in surrounding areas who do not attend Dolores Schools could use the clinic, making the percentage higher than estimated, so “there was no crime or misrepresentation,” Nowlin said.
According to the incident report obtained by The Journal, the reporting citizen was concerned that if the numbers were incorrect, Dolores Schools could be responsible for paying back the $480,000.00 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation.
The Sheriff’s Office investigator on the case spoke with Amy Latham and Geone of the Colorado Health Foundation by telephone on March 20, according to the report. The number in question, “50 percent of students qualifying for Free/Reduced Lunch Program” requirement was set forth by Dolores Schools, not the Colorado Health Foundation, Geone said.
Nowlin also said the investigator left messages with Cooper’s secretary that were not returned. The investigator reached Cooper on his cell phone on April 12, and Cooper said he would consult with the school lawyer.
In response to Nowlin’s statement, McClellan said, “Sheriff, I have more information that you obviously do not have, and while we have you and while we have the attorney for the board here, I think we should go into executive session to speak about this and resolve it once and for all.”
McClellan moved to move the board into executive session, amending his motion to include Cooper, the board’s attorney, Nowlin and District Attorney Will Furse.
The board stayed in executive session for 20 minutes, then board moved onto action items.
When the board reached the approval of the clinic, Prock acknowledged the public’s fiscal concerns but said she had come to understand the need.
Parent Kyan Maloney said that she has trust issues with the construction because of the investigation and the project being overbudget. Her fiscal concerns were echoed by others in the audience.
Under signed contracts, the district would owe an estimated $71,000 to pay the architect and owner’s rep if they had rejected the contractor.
“If they accept the bid from Weeminuche Construction Authority, the bottom line is going to $89,405,” financial director Doreen Jones said.
A few citizens addressed the board, stating that Southwest Health Systems planned to build a health clinic in Dolores, and for this reason, the clinic was unnecessary.
Board Secretary Deanna Truelsen she had contacted Southwest Health and requested a projected date, that the project had been put on hold.
McClellan said he would not pass anything that was overbudget and suggested sending the project to contractors for a third time.
Board member Kay Phelps noted research in cognition and neuroscience, saying that for students to succeed academically they need to be healthy mentally.
Many teachers and community members in attendance held signs that read, “Vote yes SBHC.”
The vote to approve Weeminuche as contractor was taken after a flurry of public comments, and Prock made the motion to approve the contractor.
Many in attendance left after the vote was taken and approved.