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A Neligh man had a message for the Neligh-Oakdale school board at last week’s regular meeting on Thursday.
“Support local businesses.”
Craig Heckert said he had originally spoken with Superintendent Scott Gregory after it was brought to his attention that the school had hired an Atkinson company for landscaping work near the football field.
“They also bought a whole bunch of mulch and approximately 20 plants from that company,” he said. “The reason I approached Mr. Gregory about this topic is because that particular job was given to someone outside the school district. I’m not discounting the fact that they did a good job, but just wondering why this wasn’t even offered to a company within the school district.”
Heckert said he subscribes to both local newspapers and the school never placed a notice.
“There was never anything stating that the school was looking to hire someone for that work,” he said. “If you don’t know, I own a full-time business of yardwork and do landscaping work...I know Jesse Mitchell also does landscaping work and he’s very good at it. There are other businesses in this area too, but none of us were given that opportunity.”
Heckert also questioned whether the tree cutting done by the Atkinson business was against city ordinances.
“There were only five organizations who have a City of Neligh arborist license this year, and I am the only business in Neligh that has an arborist license,” he said. “The company from Atkinson does not have a City of Neligh arborist license, so I believe they were violating city ordinances when they cut the tree without proper licensing. I don’t think that’s a precedence the school wants to set.”
Heckert said when he questioned Gregory about the cost of mulch and plants, he wasn’t satisfied with the superintendent’s answer.
“(Gregory) never did answer about the mulch, but he was very quick to tell me that our school purchased none of the plants,” he said. “He said all the plants were uncovered beneath the weeds, and I told him that several of the plants still had price tags on them.”
Heckert said he saw eight or nine plants with price tags of $35 each and another eight to 10 that had price tags of $19 each.
“Anybody who has ever worked with mulch before will tell you how expensive it is, so I have no idea how many hundreds of dollars were spent on mulch,” he said. “All that sales tax went to support the City of Atkinson and the West Holt School District, not Neligh or the Neligh-Oakdale Schools.”
Heckert held up a white Homecoming shirt with a long list of local business sponsors printed in maroon on the back.
“All of these businesses that are listed on the back, each one of these companies were contacted by the Neligh-Oakdale Schools to donate for this T-shirt,” he said. “This way, each student within Neligh-Oakdale could have a free T-shirt. But when it’s time for Neligh-Oakdale Schools to pay a contract to do a landscaping job, and purchase a tremendous amount of plants and mulch, we give away the wages and sales taxes to people from Atkinson? We ask these businesses to support our school, and it doesn’t seem right that our school doesn’t support the local businesses in return. I hope this is not going to be the standard operating procedure from now on because it makes our school look ungrateful for the overwhelming support offered by our local people and businesses.”
No response was given and no action was taken by board members.