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The Grady County Board of Education is taking a cautious approach to major facilities improvements at West Thomas Stadium.
During Tuesday night’s regular meeting of the Grady County Board of Education, school superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard, finance officer Dan Broome and maintenance director Dave Mitchell shared information with the board concerning additional projects that are proposed to be done in the coming years.
While some had hoped to complete all of the stadium improvements in one fell swoop, Dr. Gilliard and Broome urged delaying some major projects until the funding is in hand to pay for them.
The board has already authorized the expenditure of $1,006,148 for the installation of AstroTurf at the high school stadium. That project is being paid for with Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax #5 dollars.
Another $450,000 has been earmarked for new stadium restroom facilities, a project that is also underway.
On the wish list, but not yet approved, are new bleachers for the visitors section of West Thomas Stadium as well as in the north end zone, where the Syrupmaker Band will be moving to once the new bleachers are installed.
Plans are also ready for new lighting at the stadium at an expected cost of $400,000. “It’s not as simple as taking down a pole and putting new lights on it and putting it back up,” maintenance director Mitchell said. “It’s a very complicated project,” he added.
The price estimate for the new bleachers is $756,000. Mitchell said that even if the school board approved the purchase this week, it would by 16-18 weeks before the new bleachers could be delivered and then they would have to be installed.
Broome told the board if all of his projections come to pass and cash flow is maintained, it may be possible to take on some aspects of the additional stadium improvements, but not all at once.
Board Chairman Derrick Majors asked if the lighting project could be done before the new bleachers are installed. According to Mitchell, the lighting project could be done and the new bleachers installed at a later date.
Mitchell also warned that vendors will only guarantee some pricing for 20 days and that the longer the system puts off some of these projects the more expensive they will become.
“If Dan (Broome) is not comfortable moving forward, then I’m not either,” board member John White said Tuesday night.
Broome said another complication is the fact that if the decision was made to move forward with the additional projects, they would be nearing completion at the point in the year when the system’s bank balances are the lowest. He warned that state funding for projects is not fully received until the projects are closed out.
“We are depending on the general fund to float us through,” he said. “You’ve got to front the money from somewhere until we get our money from the state,” he added.
Dr. Gilliard said he was not expecting the board to make a decision this week, but wanted them to be aware of why the stadium project could take two years to complete.
“It’s taken a long time to get where we are now and we don’t need to forget we are in the education business, first and foremost. To stretch ourselves is not the best thing to do,” Chairman Majors said.
Board member Gerald Goosby agreed and said that the system had taken a major step with the turf grass project.
Other projects to be done as soon as funding is available include a swimming pool at Cairo High School, new lighting for the baseball/softball complex at the high school, a proposed new track and soccer field with bleachers, as well as some other facilities needs at Northside, Eastside, Shiver, Whigham and Southside schools.
In related business Tuesday night, the board accepted the low bid of $29,200 from Southern Contractors for storm drainage work to transfer storm water away from West Thomas Stadium and across Syrupmaker Drive into a low lying area located east of the Cairo High School gymnasium. The only other bid received was for $29,483 from CalMart Inc.