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Modular restrooms worse than a modular school?

If you're a parent, you've probably realized that assembling a kid's toy is not always as easy as it sounds.

Inserting Part A into Part B and securing it with bolt F123#, lock washer L3w and lock nut Q11 and then getting it all to work as it's shown on television can be a frustrating experience.

Of course, the same can be said of just about everything that's got to be assembled -- and quite a few things that don't.

One of the pitfalls of being a reporter -- besides getting a sore backside from sitting through way too many meetings -- is that you try to make sense of what you hear -- and make the stories fit into something coherent that you can explain to readers.

In recent days, I've run upon one of those situations that defies logical explanation by me -- but maybe you can see it more clearly from where you're sitting.

Here's the situation: It all began with a proposal for new, stand-alone restrooms for the Franklinton High School baseball and softball fields.

The county commissioners demanded that they be built and the school board, which ought to be in charge of such things, contended there were more important, more pressing needs for the district.

But the commissioners hold the purse strings and demanded that the project be built or else! (Meaning they might not approve issuing school bonds for a number of other projects, including roof replacements and an athletic field at Louisburg High School unless they got their way.)

That demand was either extortion or just politics as usual in Franklin County, you decide.

The school board folded, had the restroom facility designed and sent it out for bid.

It was a simple, no frills building of just 725 square feet with a fair amount of plumbing and fixtures.

Then reality came crashing in.

When the first round of bids were opened, the lowest was $319,676 -- or about $441 per square foot. The schools' architect about had a stroke and noted that "you could build a hospital for that" cost per square foot.

Those bids were tossed -- and the school board decided to try to entice a local contractor to undertake the project for less money.

After negotiations, they did talk the price down to $300,773 -- about $415 a square foot.

Better, they said, but not acceptable by a long shot.

The school board isn't anxious to build this facility at all -- and certainly not if it's going to cost an arm and a leg.

Looking for middle ground to keep all sides happy -- and save a bundle -- school board member Tommy Piper suggested last week that the district could purchase a modular restroom building about the same size as the one planned for about $41,000.

It would take another $15,000 to $20,000 to do the grading, make the plumbing connections and landscape the building, he predicted, bringing in the project for less than a third of the site-built restrooms.

It's a technique used by other school districts in the region, he said.

But that idea was nixed by board chair Dr. Elizabeth Keith and board member Paige Sayles, who said that the county commissioners had expressly forbidden the district from using a modular facility despite the cost savings.

Whoa, what was that?

Dr. Keith and Sayles, both veteran board members and not inclined to misstatement, said the commissioners had forbidden the use of a modular restroom facility.

Okay, I'll confess, I'd never heard about that stipulation, nor had ace reporter Carey Johnson, who covers the county commissioners.

But, since the source of that information is highly credible, it raises some troubling questions -- and I need help trying to make these "pieces" fit together properly.

Why, do you suppose, it is okay to have Franklin County children sit in modular classroom units for a lot of their school career but it's not okay to ask folks to use a modular restroom facility a few times a year?

It's actually even more confusing when you take a look at the bigger pictures.

Franklin County has one school -- just one -- that has so far earned an "A" grade from the state.

It is the Early College High School where both highly motivated students and their talented faculty are crammed into a modular high school that is as ugly as a mud fence and is hidden behind another county facility as if we are ashamed of it.

Now, will someone explain to me why it is okay to use modular units to house the young people we are grooming to be our next generation of leaders and outstanding citizens in modular units yet not acceptable to use a modular facility when nature calls during a baseball game?

It makes no logical sense to me -- so please explain it.

A total waste!

It's not often that I hope government is totally wasting our tax dollars but this is one of those cases.

Area authorities are planning a "live shooter" training session Saturday at Long Mill Elementary School -- and I hope they are wasting their time, their effort and our money!

The idea is to train law enforcement officers how to respond in case they someday face an active shooter situation in a school, church, crowd -- or wherever. It's not only about training, it's also about coordination of response, handling other emergency responders and getting victims out of the way before a terrible situation gets even worse.

I hope it's a complete waste of time -- and that the skills they learn and practice will never be called upon in Franklin County or anywhere else for that matter!
Unfortunately, that may not be the case.

As the horrific scene has unfolded at a tiny Baptist Church in Texas recently, we've all realized that if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere.

Watching some of the reporting on that situation, it was frightening how similar that church was to some of our own here in Franklin County and how much alike the people and the community in Texas are to our own communities.

Thus, while I applaud area authorities for being prepared, trained and ready to respond, I fervently hope that they are wasting their time and our money getting ready for something that never, ever happens here.

What's the answer?

At the risk of showing my age, I can remember the school shooting at Columbine -- and how officials, elected and appointed, said it wasn't time to talk about possible solutions.

And then there was Virginia Tech, Aurora, the horrific scene in Newtown where a deranged kid mowed down innocent, helpless first graders with a semi-automatic rifle, San Bernadino, Orlando and Las Vegas where a man rained supersonic hell down on innocent concert goers who were literally trapped in a kill zone.

And now, there's the massacre at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a long-troubled, oft-failed young man savagely murdered members of a church during a Sunday worship service, coldly going back through the building to fire bullets into the brains of those he had wounded earlier, just to make sure they were dead.

After each of these horrific events, the politicians, the NRA, the leaders of this nation, said "now is not the time" to talk about gun control or other remedies.

After the recent Texas shooting, President Trump said "it's not the time" to talk about guns.

And members of his administration said it wasn't time to talk about mental health issues, either, because it's more complicated than that.

Okay. So after all these mass killings -- and many others not noted here -- when will the time be right to talk about this issue?

When will Congress authorize the money to study these killings, to analyze the facts and the statistics to determine if some clear patterns emerge that can point to at least a partial solution?

When are we going to do SOMETHING besides just sending our "thoughts and prayers" to the victims and their families which, in reality, is meager, cold comfort to a child who just lost a parent -- or to a parent who just lost a child!

I don't have the answers! Don't profess to have them -- and I doubt that there is any one simple answer.

But to do nothing is to continue to endure -- maybe even encourage -- this carnage. Make no mistake, one day it could touch us, our state and even our community or family. We aren't' immune.

Einstein is credited with observing that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is one definition of insanity.

I wonder if he'd believe that doing nothing over and over again in the face of horrible tragedy will lessen the likelihood of future tragedies?

If we keep doing nothing, we are going to continue to face the carnage, the senseless waste of lives, the pain, the suffering and the sense of fear and helplessness until we become numb to the bloodshed all around us.

Oh, sorry! Now is not the time to talk about mass killings.


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