02/15/04 — School board continues work on building plan

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School board continues work on building plan

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 15, 2004 2:02 AM

The school board is closer than it has ever been to getting its construction plan in motion, say some board members.

"We're a whole lot closer to seeing some brick and mortar going up," said board Vice Chairman Lehman Smith on Thursday during a meeting of the facilities committee.

Superintendent Steven Taylor agreed that the school system has moved a long way in its efforts to provide a plan that will meet the burgeoning needs across the county.

"Hopefully, communities will be patient," Dr. Taylor said. "We're a lot further along than we have been."

Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, presented a maintenance plan to the board members, itemizing projects that will need to be done over the next decade. The most pressing ones listed were updating technology, parking lots, and phone systems at all the schools.

Following that were a smattering of projects listed, like flooring, boilers and painting.

Hill said that the county commissioners had asked for an extensive wish list of projects. "What they want now is every need, everything that we have got out there," he said.

Hill suggested that the board decide what should go on the list and what items could be put into a performance contract and handled through other budgetary means.

Taylor said some of the items would fit into a bond program, but the final figure needs to be a reasonable amount that people would be willing to support. He said it would be a matter of setting priorities well.

"Once we finalize our facilities plan and move what we want to the performance contract, we'll have to pull out what we think is reasonable and what we can sell in a bond," he said. "That's when we give it back to the commissioners."

Board member John P. Grantham agreed.

"We need to be careful in what we come up with when we come up with a final number," he said. "My concern and the concern of the constituents is, if we get a bond number too high, it will not pass."

Grantham said that in the case of recent requests for more community schools, he believed the residents would rather have "doors built in the 1920s than not get a school.

"Mount Olive would like to have a school if they have to come up with the Carver campus. They'd rather do away with some of the frills and get a school than have a Cadillac. The same is true for the people of Grantham." Grantham was referring to the old Carver school building in Mount Olive.

Lehman Smith said that every school in the county is looking for something, "and they seem to be looking for it right now."

Hill said it is like a jigsaw puzzle trying to meet the needs of the county.

Taylor also noted that the school system wants to protect the half-cent sales tax from the county that is used for the capital needs.

Board member George Moye asked if there was a way to determine how much has been spent in each attendance zone in the last decade.

Smith said it might not be an accurate portrayal because of the varied growth in each area.

"It might give an untrue picture of the other areas that haven't had the same amount of growth," he said.