Wilson County Schools has estimated costs to rebuild West Wilson Middle and Stoner Creek Elementary could run upwards of $70 million based on talks with insurers, with an additional $15 million to replace their contents.

Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said those figures are high estimates, and expects the school system’s insurance policy to cover the costs.

The repair process is currently projected to last 14 months, and will also involve the bus shop and athletic field between the schools. Buildings will also need to be redesigned to meet 2018’s code requirements.

“I want to be very clear, this is an estimate at this time,” Hall said. “We’re still working with the insurance company to try to settle that claim, but I don’t think you will exceed this amount — it could, but I don’t think so. I’m doing a budget amendment so when the insurance company turns us loose to go to work, I’ve got the money appropriated by the county commission.”

The Wilson County Commission’s Education Committee and Budget Committee both accepted the item as part of a series of status quo budgets during their meetings on Thursday.

“Our intent is that insurance will cover everything, or we will work with FEMA,” Hall said. “One or the other.”

FEMA is also slated to reimburse the county for a portion of expenses related to the March 3 tornado, which Finance Director Aaron Maynard said should happen within 12 to 18 months.

“We will get a sizable portion of this money back from FEMA,” Maynard told the Budget Committee, estimating between $500,000 and $900,000. “Probably next month, we will be bringing you a capital outlay note which the Comptroller’s Office has given us verbal approval for.”

The county has been keeping records of tornado expenses over the past few months in an effort to claim as much of that money as possible.

“You could have FEMA challenge and disallow,” Maynard said. “If you were to look online and look up various storms in different parts of the country, you’ll see that many times FEMA comes back in and challenges and disallows certain costs … hopefully that doesn’t happen to us. We’ve been very diligent and very careful to try to keep that from happening. We’re in constant contact with FEMA and TEMA both, but 12.5% should be the correct number.”

Thursday’s proceedings were part of a larger county government effort to pass status quo budgets by June 30, per the recommendation of the Comptroller’s Office.

With electronic meetings slated to continue through June, District 14 Commissioner Tommy Jones expressed concerns about approving the county’s budget remotely.

“I’m very uncomfortable passing and not meeting in person,” he said, asking if it was possible to pass a continuation budget and hold off on final operating budget until August. “This electronic stuff has got me nervous … not being able to sit and talk to people eye-to-eye and work things out like we generally would.”

Maynard said that the Comptroller’s Office has “strongly requested” a budget by June 30, but that the commission is not legally prevented from passing a continuation budget.

“You do get a little bit more in terms of real data, which is what we’re waiting on, so there is that side of things,” he said. “The other side is that this is probably the most uncertain period that any of us have ever looked at a budget … so I think regardless, whatever budget we pass, whether it’s in June or whether it’s in August, we can’t be married to it.”

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