Senior Staff Writer

Added on to the end of the agenda at the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners regular meeting on Monday night was the subject of providing Lincoln County Schools with additional funding to purchase laptops. Interim Superintendent Dr. Aaron Allen told the board that the projected timeframe to obtain Chromebooks was approximately eight months and if they waited until July to order more, they likely wouldn’t arrive before the school year ends.

“We currently still don’t have the devices in that were ordered in July,” he said. “Those are still somewhere in China, I guess. What we were projected to have hasn’t come true yet. We’re told they’ll be here in January.”

The additional laptops would be for K-second grade students, teachers and for spare units. Back in June, at a specially called meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Education, board members unanimously approved the recommendation to accept funding from Lincoln County to purchase additional Chromebooks for the district for grade three through 12 students. This funding was intended to bring students to the level of one-to-one technology (one standard device for each student and teacher). This additional funding was offered in light of the difficulties experienced by many students during remote learning necessitated by COVID-19 and the onset of online testing. This was introduced as a deal worked through by board member D. Todd Wulfhorst and Lincoln County commissioner Bud Cesena.

“The county is going to take care of up to $782,940,” Cesena said at the meeting in June. “We realize that this will be an ongoing expense. The school system has to use up to $500,000 of the quarter cent sales tax for the ongoing expenses and the county will cover whatever is needed afterwards.”

The arrangement was for LCS to purchase the additional Chromebooks, present the bill to the county and they’ll be paid back. The funds will come out of county’s fund balance, according to Cesena. When County Manager Kelly Atkins learned of the issue of lack of technology at the schools, Cesena said, he acted in a proactive manner and met with Wulfhorst, Belcher, Morrow and arranged to get the additional funds to the school. This was all done without it resulting in a countywide tax increase.

“We know there will be an increase in price,” Steven Hoyle, the director of technology services for the district said at the meeting last night. “It’s basic economics. If there’s a high demand and a low supply, they can charge what they want to. We’re currently looking at a price of $351 per unit where we made our purchase in July at $282 per unit. With so much that’s happening with COVID it’s hard to be exact. I think the $351 will come down, probably not to $282. I’m giving you a worst-case price per unit.”

The board voted unanimously to provide Lincoln County Schools with up to $1.3 million from the FY2021 budget to purchase enough Chromebooks to provide laptops to each K-2 student, teachers, as needed, and replacements. 

“This is an exception to the Memorandum of Understanding we agreed to with the schools last year,” Atkins said. “Anything beyond this will go back to the MOU.”

Under this memorandum, which was executed in September 2020, the county agreed to allocate to LCS an additional capital allotment for the purchase of 2,141 devices and the cost to prepare, setup and distribute the devices. This additional allotment shall not exceed $633,762. Also, as part of the memorandum, the board agreed to replace and refresh no more than 20% of the devices on an annual basis. The annual refresh and replacement costs as well as the cost of personnel has a present value of $969,653.

In other business, the board approved the following zoning applications:

• A request from Rebecca Smith for a conditional use permit to sell vehicles in the I-G (General Industrial) district. The 1.0-acre parcel is located at 6630 Denver Industrial Park Road in Catawba Springs Township.

• A request from Ransford Properties, LLC for a conditional use permit to place a Class B (doublewide) manufactured home in the R-S (Residential Suburban) district. The 0.47-acre parcel is located on the south side of Wrenn Drive about 250 feet east of Killian Street/Canada Lane in Catawba Springs Township.

• A request from Winston Conrad for a conditional use permit to place a Class B (doublewide) manufactured home in the R-S (Residential Suburban) district. The 1.0-acre parcel is located on the north side of Bynum Road about 1,100 feet west of Gastonia Highway in Lincolnton Township.

• A request from CMH Homes, Inc. for a conditional use permit to place a Class B (doublewide) manufactured home in the R-S (Residential Suburban) district. The 1.46-acre parcel is located on the north side of Car Farm Road about 900 feet east of Horseshoe Lake Road.

• A request from Oakwood Homes of Newton to rezone a 1.3-acre lot from R-SF (Residential-Single Family) to R-T (Transitional Residential). The property is located on Sherrod Lane at Waterfalls Drive about 150 feet east of Buffalo Shoals Road in Ironton Township.

• A request from Mark Phinney and Fred Lanier to rezone a 2.86-acre lot from R-S (Residential Suburban) to CZ B-G (Conditional Zoning General Business) to permit vehicle service and vehicle sales. The property is located at 4588 Reepsville Road, on the north side of Reepsville Road about 600 feet east of Jetton Drive, in Howards Creek Township.

The board heard updates on the Centralina Regional Council from Geraldine Gardner and Keep Lincoln County Beautiful by Patty Korn.

The Lincoln County Schools NCDPI Facility Needs Survey to be given by Dr. Aaron Allen was tabled for corrections because several numbers from the facilities study summary did not match the details of the actual report.  

“From what I understand, this report is generated by DPI and the school system has observed similar problems in the past,” Atkins said. “The report will be revisited at a later date.”

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