BOE wasting no time getting started with building projects

Bolstered by the passage of the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax by local voters last week, the Grady County Board of Education voted Tuesday night to move forward with the renovation of the Southside Elementary School auditorium and to finalize plans for the construction of a new administrative building and classrooms on the Southside campus.
Architect Raymond C. Finger presented board members with a proposed timeline for the Southside projects Tuesday night as well as an estimated cost for the auditorium renovation project.
Based on the schematic plans the board was presented last month, Finger contacted contractors and developed a budget estimate for the auditorium renovation of $1,232,200.
School system officials had considered the possibility of demolishing the existing structure and building a new auditorium but, according to Superintendent Lee M. Bailey the projected cost for demolition and new construction would have run between $2 million and $2.5 million.
“This is a historic building and I would much prefer to preserve it if at all possible. From the estimates we’ve been given it appears we can do just that,” Bailey said.
The auditorium renovation is one of the projects school system officials plan to pay for using funds from the current ESPLOST, which expires June 30, 2015.
According to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard, there is $1.8 million in the current ESPLOST that can be used for renovations at Southside.
“We’d like for the cost to be lower. We were shooting for a million, but we do have the money currently to cover the renovation. What we don’t spend on the auditorium will be available for other work at Southside,” Dr. Gilliard said.
In total, the school system has accumulated $4.9 million in sales tax proceeds. Part of that total plus the monthly collections between now and next June will be used to pay off the school system current indebtedness, the Southside renovations, and the renovations planned for the vocational building at Cairo High School, according to Finance Officer Dan Broome.
The board on Tuesday night authorized Finger to finalize the plans and develop construction documents that can be used to solicit bids for the auditorium renovation.
Finger projects he will have the construction documents complete by mid February and the project could go out to bid and receive bids back by mid March.
According to the architect’s timeline the renovation could be completed by Oct. 2015.
In separate action Tuesday night, the board authorized Finger to begin work on construction documents for a new administrative building and classrooms on the Southside campus.
The proposed new buildings will be built on the site where the former kindergarten wing once stood. That structure was razed in June. Constructed in 1938, the building had been vacant for approximately eight years after school officials determined it was no longer structurally sound.
The architect projects he will have completed construction documents for the new buildings by July 2015 and the project can be put out to bid and bids opened in August 2015. On best case estimates, Finger said the new construction could be completed by August 2016.
The projected cost of building “A,” “B,” and “C” on the Southside campus is approximately $5.4 million. The new construction was just one of the projects identified as projects in the ESPLOST referendum because the original wings of the Southside main building are structurally failing and the cost to bring the original structures to code would exceed the cost of new construction, according to school officials.
Based on the ESPLOST referendum approved last week, the school system is authorized to issue up to $7 million in bonds to fast-track projects identified to be paid for with sales tax proceeds.
On Tuesday night, the board certified the election results and began the process required to issue the bonded indebtedness.
Collections for the sales tax just approved will begin July 1, 2015 after the current tax expires on June 30, 2015. The new ESPLOST will be collected for a period of five years and is estimated to generate not more than $16,000,000.
Finance Officer Broome reported to the board that sales tax collections for the first four months of the current fiscal year had been down approximately six percent compared to the same period in 2013.
According to Broome, the average monthly collections after the new title tax was implemented had been $208,000 per month, but he said the current average from July through October was only $193,000.
In related business Tuesday night, the board authorized architect Greg Smith, the lead architect on the new Cairo High School College and Career Academy facility, to submit preliminary plans to the Georgia Department of Education for their review and approval.
CTAE Director and CHS Assistant Principal Todd Gainous made the recommendation to the superintendent and the board after having held recent conversations with Smith.
According to Gainous, the plans are at 35 percent completion and Smith said it was time to submit them to the state for its approval.
Superintendent Bailey made the recommendation to the board to submit the preliminary plans to the state and the board unanimously agreed.
The plans for renovating the existing vocational wing will also be submitted to the state for approval.
The new career academy building will be constructed at the southwest corner of the CHS campus.

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