Even as the Andalusia City Council agreed to secure a $7 million bond for construction projects at Andalusia High School, city leaders expressed pleasure that only 57 percent of the total project will be financed.
“I can’t think of another project in the history of this city that has been done this way,” Mayor Earl Johnson said Tuesday night.
The project, which totally renovates the AHS auditorium and football stadium, is expected to cost $12.245 million. The city board of education has entered a $9.3 million contract with Wyatt Sasser Construction for the renovations, and other pieces of the total project will be added as the funding allows.
The 25-year payout is secured with proceeds of a half-cent sales tax inside the City of Andalusia designated for education. For the past two years, the city and the board have set aside $500,000 each year to put toward this planned project.
The bond payments were designed to be approximately $450,000 – or less than the board is accustomed to setting aside each year. The $50,000 difference in what has been set aside and the estimate payment will go into a reserve fund for maintenance.
In addition to the monies set aside from the sales tax, Rep. Mike Jones has secured $1.25 million in state funding, and the Public Education Building Authority (PEBA) has raised private monies for the project. The balance will come from the board’s reserve funds.
Dr. Charles Eldridge, who chairs the PEBA, said in addition to the $500,000 it has raised for the project, he believes they can add $300,00 or more in private monies to the total. Contributions received or pledged to date range from $50 to $150,000, he said.
“From a public perception and political point of view, this is a popular program,” Eldridge said. “People see this as a positive thing, that will improve the quality of life for students, and be a positive draw for people moving to the Andalusia area.”
BOE approves first $9.3M of estimated $12.5M project
The Andalusia Board of Education Monday night approved a $9.3 million contract with Wyatt Sasser Construction for projects at Andalusia High School.
The contract represents the “base bid” for the project which renovates the stadium and the auditorium. If all of the proposed project is done, it is expected to cost $12.5 million.
“Entering a contact allows us to get started,” Superintendent Ted Watson said.
The board wants the stadium project completed by the time football season begins in the 2018-19 school year. It initially was hoped the project would begin in January; now Watson said he hopes work can begin Feb. 1.
“There is pre-construction meeting on Jan. 19,” Watson said. “Our hope is that (state building officials) would allow them to start mobilizations of equipment, and demotion ahead of complete approval of the state building commission.”
There also will need to be a meeting with school officials about traffic flow and safety concerns.
“They’re really anxious (at the high school) about things like Memolusia on Feb. 3, graduation and other events,” Watson said. “As soon as we know something about when (the construction company) can mobilize, we will know more about where things will go.” Read More>
Recurring gifts from two foundations will fund the City of Andalusia’s purchase of what was once Darling Chevrolet, buildings that most recently housed Carquest, in downtown Andalusia.
The Andalusia Council on Monday approved a resolution authorizing the purchase of the property, which will be used in a cooperative partnership with the Covington County Historical Society. The back side of the property the city is acquiring touches property currently owned by the CCHS, on which it operates a museum.
The resolution states development of the property will not begin until a feasibility study and business pro forma have been completed, as future funding allows.
Johnson said, “What we’re doing here is the first step of a long trek. We want to develop this property as a museum and interpretive center.
“This is the first step of many steps to be taken,” he said. “It is designed to further enhance what we are tyring to do to encourage people to spend time in downtown Andalusia. We will be calling on the state Department of Archives, and universities to help us. Most of all, we will be calling on the people of Andalusia and Covington County.”
Councilman Terry Powell, who voted for the project, said the city must do its due diligence.
Around the country, he said, museums are failing.
“There are probably a lot of reasons for that,” he said. “We’ve got to be very objective as we go forward.”
Johnson said he has met with leaders of the historical society and they are very excited about the idea.
“Quite frankly, they’ve struggled for years with a place that is totally inadequate to showcase all that they have,” he said.
Johnson said there will be much work ahead to make the expanded museum, complete with interpretive centers, a reality.
“But I think the people of Andalusia and Covington County are up to it,” he said.
Council member Hazel Griffin voted against the project. Griffin said she believes the city has too many irons in the fire.
She also asked that the resolution be amended to say the city would not assign its own workers to any project done in the project, as she believes the city works them too hard.
No action was taken on the proposed amendment.
The meeting was called at noon on Monday in lieu of a regularly scheduled meeting that would have been held on Tues., Jan. 2.
The council also:
Approved the purchase of a street sweeper.
Reappointed Steve Posey to the Public Education Building Authority.
Leaders of the Covington County Historical Society were pleased with the news that the city is acquiring property adjacent to theirs in the downtown district, which will allow them to expand the Three Notch Museum.
Sue Bass Wilson, a founding member of the CCHS, said the group has “a treasure of artifacts” it is not able to display in its current location.
The current museum building is the converted and restored former Central of Georgia depot, the oldest wooden building in downtown Andalusia (Circa 1900), Wilson said. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The museum’s displays range from Indian arrowheads, tools and weapons to an extensive collection of photographs from the Alatex collection. There are military uniforms; vintage chairs and a spittoon from the courthouse; kitchen items; and medical tools. On the grounds there is a log cabin, the H.B. Little country store, and the River Falls post office.
Wilson said initial talks have included the possibility of restoring the new building to its art deco design of the 1950s, opening the now-covered windows and displaying antique cars there.
A parking lot will be added to provide accessibility to both the current grounds and the new ones.
Wilson said it is expected the city will bring professional museum curators in to work on the project. To date, the CCHS has relied upon volunteers for all of its work.
“Ever since the mid 1980s, we have only had volunteers work with us, so we are very excited to have some professional help,” Wilson said, “It should be a long project, but we are looking forward to expanding and bringing in extra attractions for this great city.”
Andalusia Star News
City of Andalusia employees began disassembling Candyland earlier this week, moving cottages from the Court Square and Springdale. On Friday, the giant Christmas tree which has been in place since mid-November came down, officially ending the season in Andalusia. The event drew thousands to the city during December. |Photos by Christopher Smith and Michele Gerlach
Andalusia Star News