By HOWARD BALABAN email@example.com
Medina Journal-Register — Almost two weeks ago Medina’s Todd Eick learned that the FFA Chapter of Medina Central School District had won a $25,000 Monsanto Grant for rural education.
On Tuesday he spoke to the district’s board of education about his plans for how to use the grant funds. In a presentation he outlined how the space between the tennis courts near the high school and the vacant Pizza Hut would be the focal point of the funds. Eick said he had certain target dates in mind, and he spoke on Tuesday hoping to get board approval at some point in the near future to proceed.
Eick said a fence would be built to enclose live animals, and that he would work with Tim Ames of the district’s building and grounds department to make sure it was placed properly. Eick said he envisioned a slat-type of fence with wire-mesh backing. He said the fence would enclose the area, which would have a shaded pasture area.
A barn for the live animals was also presented, although Eick said a portable style barn would likely be the route to go as the funds are limited and there are questions about the feasibility of a permanent structure.
Since the animals that would be kept on campus would be fiber producing animals, Eick said a standby generator would be part of the project so that extra power is available when the time comes to shear the animal, such as a sheep.
Additionally, Eick discussed installing a hydroponics area in the atrium and greenhouse attached to the south end of the high school to help provide a well-balanced diet for the animals year-round. Finally, Eick said he would like to see the project include infrared, wireless cameras that broadcast in color with a link to the school district’s webpage so that people everywhere could see what the FFA students were doing.
“This project entails pretty much the entire FFA motto,” Eick said, adding that he said he has found some good deals thanks to the support of a number of companies supporting the project. He said he was looking to stretch the grant as far as he could, and he was encouraged that his current students were helping him out with the idea of looking several years ahead so that future students could still benefit from the project.
The board applauded Eick for his efforts in writing the grant and congratulated him on receiving it. However, some questions remained.
Veterinary visits, for instance, could add up quickly should the need arise, said one board member. Eick said those would be covered in the FFA budget. He added that the llamas he suggested keeping on campus would be his own, and those visits would come from his own pocket.
Board member Wendi Pencille voiced several concerns. Specifically, she asked why the fencing could not be higher than presented to ensure the safety of both the passersby and the animals.
Eick said, “I’ve been around animals my entire life and I’d never put an animal in a position that would compromise its health and safety.” He said putting a barrier up would be a disservice to the people.
Pencille disagreed, and she said several issues would need to be addressed before she could fully get on board with the project. She said having the animals in public view without a way to keep potential vandals out is not safe, because no matter how often the cameras are on it would still be impossible for the animals to be constantly watched.
Pencille also voiced concern about the school district being a public venue and therefore would be subject to USDA guidelines as well as certain insurance issues, which she pointed to as another reason for having a larger perimeter fence.
Board member Dave Sevenski said he was excited for the project, but he, too, shared many of the same concerns and said Pencille’s points were valid.