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Whenever Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon makes an appearance in Rep. Jim Hansen’s district, the new state assembly member makes a point to go see him.
That simple political gesture paid off for the Frankford Republican last week, when Nixon reinstated $1 million in state funding he had previously vetoed to rebuild the Pike-Lincoln Tech Center in Eolia.
“I went to an event in Ralls County and the governor was there,” Hansen said Friday, Oct. 11. “He gave a speech about work development,” at the Buckhorn plant.
“When he was done, I had a conversation with him and said the money he was withholding was exactly what his speech was about. It was the perfect place to talk to him.
“The next day I got a call from his office and they said, ‘It’s going to happen.’ Now we won’t be sitting around wondering what’s going to happen.”
The news made Pike County R-III (Clopton) schools Superintendent Mark Harvey a happy man. The district he guides includes the tech center.
“We’re looking forward to the funding and putting it to good use,” Harvey said. “This should make the bidding process smoother,” to build a new 20,000 square-foot structure.
The $1 million will allow the district to bid the entire project instead of doing it piecemeal, Harvey said. It will allow the district to meet its $4.7 million rebuilding budget when parlayed with the $4 million the district received from insurance after the center burned to the ground on Dec. 2, 2011.
The blaze of unknown origin destroyed the center’s main building, but didn’t spread to the adjacent auto and diesel education building. The catastrophe forced most tech center students to the old Clopton Middle School building, where they have been attending classes ever since.
“We appreciate the taxpayers’ patience,” Harvey said. “It’s been long and arduous but now we can proceed.”
The $1 million was originally tied into a state projects funding bill that Nixon axed with a line-item veto earlier this year.
State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said Nixon vetoed the money because it was pulled from the part of the state’s budget that helps pay for day-to-day school operations. Nixon thought it should have come from pure project funding coffers and found the funding inappropriate, she added.
It looked like the $1 million would be restored in early September, when Hansen and others in the state house and senate overrode Nixon’s original veto.
But the funding was put in limbo again when Nixon didn’t release it from $400 million he was holding onto pending the veto session vote.
Hansen said last week he waited until the smoke cleared from that event before acting again. When Nixon announced he was going to Ralls County, Hansen decided it was time.
“Mark (Harvey) and I never lost sight of the vision,” Hansen said. “Working together with members on both sides of the aisle, Senator (Brian) Munzlinger, Gov. Nixon and Superintendent Mark Harvey were key to seeing this become a reality.
“Mark made numerous trips to the capitol to meet with other representatives, including the Speaker of House, Tim Jones, as well as members of the senate. He proved to be an invaluable resource providing the facts and figures needed to make the case for the technical center.”
The school district’s architectural firm is already working on the new center, preparing bid documents and taking core samples at the center site along Hwy. 61, Harvey said.