There is more to the story about elementary school

In last week’s City of Magee board meeting, Mayor Dale Berry deferred the meeting to Alderman Patrick Brown to discuss the old Magee Elementary School. Brown then called out the newspaper and challenged why Pat Brown, publisher of the Magee Courier/Simpson County News, was casting aspersions on the Five County Head Start Program, which plans to occupy the facility.

 City Attorney Bruce Smith said that the newspaper knew full well that Five County had been involved in the deal all along and that the two, (Head Start and Five County) were interchangeable. 

The paper challenged that Smith had not represented that Five County would occupy the facility but that it was Head Start.  Smith said the two were interchangeable because Head Start is handled that way.  It is true that for Magee, Five County does administer the Head Start program. The paper only found this out after contacting Pat Fisher with the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D, C. But we also learned that private for profit companies can  handle Head Start programs, as well as schools, so the way that Smith presented it at the board meeting was not entirely accurate.  

And the first knowledge the paper had that Five County was the actual lessee was when a copy of the lease was obtained at a board meeting a few weeks ago.  The attorney all but said the newspaper was lying in that meeting because John Bines, Five County’s director, was at the school board meeting.  We had no idea who he was.  We had been told Alderman Brown and Smith  went to Atlanta to meet with Head Start officials so we assumed Bines was from Atlanta. 

When we asked questions about the program  Mayor Berry said, “Oh Patrick is handling that.” 

So our question is this, “Is that any way to structure a multi-million dollar deal, when no one can give you answers about spending the public’s money?”  No one on the board knows any details. If they do they are not saying.  There is no record in the minutes of this project being  discussed since this board has come into office.

Brown stated that 40 employees are associated with the program, but the lease states 10 employees.  Brown says Five County has a $9 million bank account; nothing in the lease regards bank accounts or amounts.

Brown stated during the meeting that Head Start needed to get appraisals on the property to make a determination as to how much insurance they should carry on the property.  However, legal notices in last week’s edition of the  Magee Courier said Five County wanted  bids on the newly acquired Magee Elementary property.  Mayor Dale Berry said they did not sign a deed.   Superintendent Greg Paes said he did not sign a deed transferring ownership.  The legal notice was placed through Five County Child Development.  Who signed the deed transferring ownership?

The truth is, the notice was probably premature on behalf of Five County. 

Let us state again.  The deal is probably a very good one for Five County Child Development Center, Simpson County Child Development Center and the City of Magee.  The real question is why are they trying to broker it in back rooms and not let the people know what is going on?

 When we  get anything wrong in reporting the news,  we don’t admitting it, but we are not sure we have done that.