Connect 4 board votes to redirect funding through city of Berryville

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Connect 4 Board voted at its Wednesday meeting to redirect funding for the renovation of the Berryville Readiness Center through the city of Berryville.

The Berryville Readiness Center will be converted to the Carroll County Career Center to house the Connect 4 program, providing students with a cross-curricular background in different trades with an initial focus on industrial maintenance. Tyson Foods is donating $1.3 million for the renovation project.

The board had previously discussed Tyson keeping the funds in its finance department and cutting smaller checks for the renovation as it progresses.

Board president Rodney Ellis, the technical education liaison and trainer for Tyson Foods, said the company’s finance department decided the best way to maximize the funding is to run the management of the construction through the city of Berryville.

“We talked to Mayor Tim McKinney and [economic development director] Chris Claybaker about that,” Ellis said. “The reason being is that Tyson can’t get the tax credit on the construction side of it. We can only get it for the equipment.”

He said the board is looking at about $800,000 in expenses for the renovation of the building, which would leave about $500,000 for the necessary equipment for the program. The bids for the renovation have exceeded that amount so far, he said.

“The low bid was about half a million over that. It was around $1.2 million,” Ellis said. “That’s taking way too much away from what we want to put on the equipment side.”

With the city taking over the construction side of things, Claybaker said Berryville is getting ready to advertise the renovation project for about 15 days to receive more bids.

The board later voted to close the application period for the C4 director position the last week of November. Bryan Pruitt, superintendent of the Eureka Springs School District, said the board may start interviewing applicants the second week of November.

The board also voted to set up a vendor account for the Connect 4 campus through the Berryville School District.

“That’s just for us to use the Tyson donations to order equipment,” Pruitt said. “To order that, the company we’re ordering from has to be affiliated with a school district, so we’re going to do that through Berryville schools.”

He said it is common for school districts to set up vendor accounts in order to do business with companies. While the Berryville School District was selected because it is in the same city as the career center, Pruitt said the vendor account will be under the Connect 4 program’s name.

The board also voted to have the Berryville, Eureka Springs and Green Forest school districts supply furniture and technology for the Connect 4 program.

“If we need some desks, chairs or computers for the program, then the three schools will all help,” Pruitt said.

Ellis told the board he is contacting the Arkansas Career and Technical Education (ACE) about possible Career and Technical Education (CTE) grants. The goal, he said, is to obtain a $100,000 grant.

“The drawback with CTE is that they have about $11 million worth of requests and about $5 million to give,” he said. “Normally, we know by May who received funding.”

Pruitt said the three superintendents will also be meeting soon with the Walmart Family Foundation Inc. in Bentonville to discuss possible grant opportunities.

The board’s next regular meeting was rescheduled to noon Tuesday, Dec. 5, at Sparky’s Roadhouse Cafe in Eureka Springs in order to avoid a conflict with the schools’ schedules.

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