The Clarksdale Municipal School District hired TLC Engineering from Houston, Texas, as consultants so they can hopefully be the first district in the state to use COVID-19 stimulus money to make facility improvements.
TLC Engineering will seek to secure American Rescue Plan funding and use FEMA public assistance funding to assess buildings throughout the district and make necessary improvements.
At the regular May board meeting, CMSD superintendent Dr. Earl Joe Nelson said the project would not cost the district anything if federal funds were not obtained. He added the project modeled after a school in Texas.
“We will be the first public school district in Mississippi that will be receiving these funds if we get them,” Nelson said. “We did sign a contract with them (TLC Engineering). We don’t pay them anything if they don’t get any money that’s in the contract. I just want to make sure that you know what we have here in Clarksdale and what we’re bringing to the table to make a difference for our students and for our city.”
Davis Disaster Consulting out of Jackson is the subcontractor.
“If we don’t get the grant money, we don’t get paid,” said Ben Davis, CEO of Davis Disaster Consulting. “Because we know the money is out there and we know it exists and we could be reimbursed at 100 percent.”
Davis is originally from Biloxi. He has a seven year track record with the company and is currently project manager in Massachusetts overseeing all their disasters. He has also worked in Colorado, Florida, California, St. Louis and Texas.
“What I would like to bring to the community is getting you to maximize your reimbursements,” Davis said. “There are federal dollars out there right now with the American Rescue Plan.”
Davis said $20 million is available for low-moderate income communities to take advantage of.
“The problem is a lot of times you don’t have the staff or the expertise to go after the funds or administer them once you get them,” Davis said.
Bill Buckmaster, construction manager for TLC Engineering, also talked about how he had helped other districts secure similar funding.
“We’ve been in this business for 23 years,” Buckmaster said. “We’ve helped many other districts get funding for the type of projects you all are looking at.”
Buckmaster said he did have an opportunity to look at the schools.
“You’ve got a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “I think we can help you a ton and stay within the limits.”
Buckmaster said the goal was to make the schools look like places parents want to send children to.
“I’m curious about a timeline,” said board member Sandy Stillions. “How long before you know whether or not you can secure what you need to make these improvements?”
Davis said money was coming regardless. The only question is how much money?
“You’re guaranteed some money,” Davis said. “We just have to determine how much. We may be overqualified. We may have more money than that available for this community.”
“We’re very excited about this project,” Nelson added. “This is something that’s going to be huge for this community, for our students.”
Board member Joan Morris talked about the projects themselves.
“What exactly will we start with when we’re talking about priorities?” Morris said.
“We’re working with Dr. Nelson and he has a list, but we would like to get the input from everybody as far as what are the biggest issues that you see in your community?” Davis replied.
School repairs will be looked at during the summer.
“Kids are out of school. We have time to go in the building and really get some instructional projects going really fast,” Davis said. “That’s why I think we’ll be able to hit the ground running.”