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Vocational Center renovation to begin soon

The value engineering is wrapping up and the Grady County School System is continuing to negotiate for the best pricing, but it appears the renovation of the existing Grady County Vocational Center on the campus of Cairo High School will cost approximately $4.3 million.
The project will be paid for with a combination of state funds, Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax proceeds, and the cash reserves of the school system.
The school board authorized Grady County School Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard to proceed with the project at a cost not to exceed $4.3 million and the superintendent is hopeful of reducing the cost to about $4.1 million. Approximately $1.5 million in modernization funds will be combined with around $1.2 million in ESPLOST and the remainder from cash reserves to finance the renovation.
“We are asking for your approval tonight so that they can begin removal of asbestos during spring break,” Dr. Gilliard said Tuesday.
PDC Construction Inc., of Bainbridge is serving as the general contractor on the project.
Once renovated, the facility will house the labs for automotive, welding, early childhood education and forestry in addition to the culinary arts program.
The culinary arts lab was not originally included in the initial plans and according to Dr. Gilliard that component is “very expensive.”
The food service equipment to be installed in the new lab will cost $266,510.
The Grady County School System ended the last fiscal year with approximately $5.1 million in cash reserves. According to Finance Officer Dan Broome, the school system is not supposed to carry a reserve greater than 15 percent of the general fund budget, which has prompted the school system to make some investments out of the reserves to avoid an audit finding in the audited financial statement of the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which ends in June.
The board this week also accepted the low bid of $131,175 from Parker’s Heating & Air of Cairo to air condition the Whigham Elementary School Gymnasium. A similar project at Washington Middle School that was recently completed cost approximately $80,000, but a new electrical panel and transformer must be installed at Whigham to accommodate the new service which drove up the cost of the project. The only other bid for the project was $133,200 from Carter-Wilkes Heating & Air of Cairo. Barnes Heating & Cooling of Dothan, Ala., was contacted but declined to bid.
The two air conditioning projects are also being paid for from the school system’s cash reserves.
Board member Jeff Worsham said that he wanted the public to know the board was willing to spend money from the reserves on needed projects in order to avoid “getting in trouble with the auditors.”
Lastly, the board approved the expenditure of $111,680 for computer carts, mice, and other related equipment and installation of new computer laptops that were purchased last month with grant funding. The additional expense will be paid out of the cash reserves.
The notebook carts and related equipment will be purchased from Howard Technology, the mice from Arey Jones Educational Solutions, and the installation will be done by Blough Tech of Cairo.

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