Board members Fred Kittle and Matt Shultz voted against the item, suggesting the board have further discussion on ways the community could make use of the facility, proposing several ideas ranging from creating a resource center for students or hosting an emergency response center, to having a business set up shop in the building.
“If we can wait and just have some time to talk with leaders of the community just to see if that’s viable and if there’s no cost to us — I realize there’s an insurance cost to us, a liability cost — ... I think it would be worth it to at least talk with some of the community leaders and see before we tear down the building if there would be uses at no cost to us and would suffer no liability, that it might be worth looking at and voting on in January,” Kittle said.
Superintendent John Harper said he has not received any input from the community regarding the use of the facility that would not be passed on to the board.
“I’ve talked with the mayor, I’ve talked with [Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor], I’ve talked with [Bartow County Administrator Peter Olson], and to my knowledge there is no interest other than for us to give the auxiliary gym to the Boys & Girls Club,” Harper said. “However, I’ve heard no one talk about the liability, the insurance coverage, the utility coverage and all of that. Again, one of my concerns is the continual expense to the school system.
“We’re having difficulty as it is, certainly we have been good stewards of the community, ... but one of the things that I have done with our maintenance department is continue to sever the utilities in that building because there is significant costs there — we’re looking at operating costs of about $6,500 a month to keep those air conditioners and heaters flowing, and when you do that and you don’t have something in there taking care of the humidity in the building, you’ll have issues that are going to occur there in the carpet.”
Shultz said he feels the board should explore different channels for allowing the community to utilize the building.
“I understand that maybe our traditional partners maybe don’t have any use for the facility, but I don’t know that I’m comfortable that we’ve explored enough of our private or nonprofit partners,” Shultz said. “... There might be some things that are more outside the box — a business, an incubator facility — something like that that the building could be used for and I’m just trying to see why it would be a bad idea to give it 30 days to see if anybody has any interest in using it that way, and it may be that we have no interest from our government partners or from anybody out in the private sector, but once we tear it down, it’s gone. We don’t have the option to go back at that point.”
Harper said while he agrees with Kittle and Shultz that the building does provide the opportunity of space to be used by the community, he feels the facility is not usable based on its condition. Before being used as AMS, the school had been used as Adairsville High School, which also has seen a new facility built for its use in the past several years.
“I think it’s in our best interest for us to create a green space ... and prepare it for a new Adairsville Elementary School in the future,” Harper said.
Board member Anna Sullivan, who represents the Adairsville district, said while she and many other community members have fond memories of using the old AMS facility growing up, she is concerned that a vacant building will not be utilized by the community without the board bearing the cost.
“The school has been a treasure to the community and it has been something of importance for all of us and when I joined the board, one of the first things Dr. Harper discussed with me was how do we make this transition [from the old AMS to the new AMS]...,” Sullivan said. “I have real concerns about an empty shell just sitting there and ending up looking like the building in Pine Log where we have broken windows, grass that’s overgrown and [while] we no longer own the building, people still think of it as a part of the Bartow County School System and we can’t have a huge, deserted building with broken glass and the possibility for vandalism and other things that can happen at that facility in downtown.
“... It hasn’t been a secret that we have been making this transition ever since we broke ground in March a year ago. ...I think the primary issue we have had is that once we moved out of that facility this summer, the building has continued to sit there which has probably raised questions in peoples’ minds about what we’re going to do, but the reality [is] when we talk to people and have discussions about it, I think most people have known what the plan was ... We ourselves as a board voted [this year] we were going to do a demolition on the building.”
Kittle said while he does understand the board has to pay for the building while it isn’t being used, he feels the taxpayers who fund the board deserve greater consideration in the matter.
“I’ll be the first one — if we’re going to take a hit in cost or liabilities or whatever I say ‘demo it now’ — but I’m just saying it’s worth exploring ... If there’s a good community there, and after all it is taxpayers’ money, it’s their building too, and if there’s a use that can help the community, help us with our graduation rates, etc., I think we should at least explore it and I don’t think we have a lot to lose if we stick originally as planned and vote on this in January.”
The board also voted 3-2 to approve $35,000 for demolition contingencies and soil testing at the site. In each AMS vote, Shultz and Kittle voted against with Sullivan, John Howard and Chairman Davis Nelson voting for the item. The board voted unanimously to approve all other agenda items.