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Schools brace for busy summer of spending SPLOST money

Projects will use existing funds, too

POSTED: March 20, 2011 12:55 a.m.

New school roofs and air conditioning systems may be up first on a list of projects to be funded by Hall County's 1-cent sales tax for education.

Voters approved the renewal of the special purpose local option sales tax on Tuesday. Gainesville and Hall County school officials now will decide which projects take top priority.

"We're looking at the age of our buildings and what the critical needs are," said Damon Gibbs, principal of Johnson High School and Hall County's construction manager. "Maintenance crews have evaluated the situation for some time."

In Hall County, about $3.5 million in repairs is scheduled to start this summer. The bill will be paid after SPLOST collections begin in 2012.

A new roof and heating and air conditioning system will be installed at West Hall High School for a projected $2.2 million.

The school still has its original roof, now 22 years old, Gibbs said. Its expected life span was only 15 to 18 years.

"There are constant leaks," he said, adding that crews have spent many hours patching troublesome areas.

Heating and air conditioning systems also will be replaced at North Hall and East Hall middle schools.

"The weather has been fine now; it's cool in the morning and it gets warm in the afternoon," he said. "But in late spring and the dead of winter we have tremendous issues with those schools."

The system also will design security entrances this summer for all elementary schools that don't have them.

The new entrances would direct visitors straight to the front office instead of a common area, Gibbs explained.

If the school board approves the bids on March 28, system officials will meet with contractors, Gibbs said.

The system also will use state capital outlay funds to offset the cost.

For Gainesville schools, the two priority sites this summer are Enota Multiple Intelligences and Woods Mill academies. Both need roofing and electrical work and repairs to heating and air conditioning units.

There are also plans at Enota to route parking more effectively and address plumbing issues, Dyer said.

"There will be some smaller budget things at all schools," Dyer added, "such as wiring at certain parts of the school to access technology."

She noted the projects will use a mixture of existing funds and SPLOST money.

A project starting a bit later is the replacement of Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, which is slated to begin in September. The school was built in 1937 and has numerous structural concerns, including a leaky roof and sinking subfloor.

Crews will raze and rebuild the school on the same site.

The system is in the process of hiring an architect.

Fair Street, which also serves as a community center, will continue to house programs and day camps this summer. When construction begins, Gainesville Middle School and the Woods Mill Academy gym will become temporary community centers, Dyer said.

Full project lists were outlined on Tuesday's ballot.

SPLOST also is set to pay off bond debt and buy school buses and books.

Collections for the SPLOST IV will start in 2012 when SPLOST III expires. It is expected to generate $130 million over five years.

Gainesville is slated to receive about $25.5 million and Hall County will earn about $100 million, based on enrollment figures. Because part of Buford City Schools lies in Hall County, that system will get a negotiated share of $3.8 million.


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