The Bartow County School Board is preparing to build a new school.
At its monthly meeting Monday, the board voted 5-0 to authorize the district to present information to the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) to obtain site approval for the new Adairsville Elementary School, which would be built at the old Adairsville Middle School site between College and King streets.
“The vote by this board is an essential piece of that,” Superintendent Dr. John Harper said. “Mr. [Pankaj] Daiya [construction and maintenance director] has done his work to get the packet ready for that, and we ask the board ... to give us the ability to send off to the state, with your approval, that that’s the site we choose to build the new elementary school.”
The old middle school site has been cleared and readied for new elementary school, and a risk hazard assessment and Phase I environmental site assessment have been completed for the site. The DOE must approve the site so the next steps in the process can begin at a suitable time.
Funding for the new school would come from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) if voters approve extending the 1 percent tax another five years when they go to the polls Nov. 3.
“We’ve been working with some architectural plans from five different companies — we asked six to submit, and only five did,” Harper said. “We’ve got those plans. We’ve had board members look at those. What we’re trying to do right now is see how our vote is going to go, and I hope that the taxpayers support that continuation of the SPLOST. Everything that we’ve built so far has been built out of SPLOST. ... We think the community is going to support that, but I don’t want to bring them an architectural firm and a plan and get everybody all excited about that, and all of a sudden, we won’t be able to fund it, because without SPLOST, we won’t be able to build it.”
If the SPLOST passes in November, Harper said he’d have an architectural rendering ready for board members to vote on at the next meeting.
“We’ll then begin working with the school and that architect to put together the interior plans of that building, and my desire would be that we would start moving dirt somewhere around July or August of next year,” he said.
The superintendent said the school would cover all of the “substantial site.”
“What we’re going to do is use the entire site,” he said. “We’re going to re-grade it. We’re going to take the football field out. We’re going to take the track out. We’re going to take the bus parking area out, and in the plan that we like, that’s where we’ll have the community walk area. They’ll be able utilize that and not have to disturb the facility at the time. We’re looking for a really good site up there. ...
“It’s going to be really pretty. And it’s in the city, and that was a commitment we made to the city of Adairsville, not to move the school out.”
After a lengthy discussion, board members voted down a policy change that would have not allowed them to accept stipends to help pay travel expenses for attending events and meetings related to their position.
“I had some input from the personnel committee that said, ‘You know, let’s try to do our part and give back to the school system and not take stipends for our work as we go out and visit and get involved in activities’ ...,” Harper said. “Just to give you some information, in 2014, we spent $10,450 there. Last year, we spent $13,000.”
Chairwoman Anna Sullivan and board members Fred Kittle and Derek Keeney voted against the change, citing several reasons they were against it.
One was they were afraid the policy would discourage qualified candidates who might need the stipends from running for school board seats in the future.
Sullivan said she didn’t understand the need to change the policy since many board members already choose to pay their own travel expenses out of pocket.
“If we already know that our board members voluntarily do this, I don’t understand the need to codify it,” she said. “I think that our board has been guided by an ethic of dedicated service and sacrifice.”
The opponents instead supported board members voluntarily choosing not to accept compensation as a way to give back to the system.
In supporting the policy change, Dr. Davis Nelson said it was a way for board members to “step up” and do what they’ve been asking their employees and tax-paying residents to do — make financial sacrifices for the good of school district.
“I think it is important that we, the five board members that have asked so much of our staff and citizens, that we do what we can to be a part of that giving, and this is a way we can give,” he said. “And then down the road, if there’s a different board or the board chooses to change, they certainly have the power to do that.”
Board members also unanimously approved a three-year contract for financial and compliance audits with Mauldin and Jenkins LLC.
The costs for the audit services will be $52,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015; $53,500 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016; and $54,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017.