Education

Muscogee County School Board approves $56M budget for new Spencer High, buys land to expand adjacent sports complex project

Along with approving the $56 million budget for a new Spencer High School, the Muscogee County School Board also authorized during Tuesday night's meeting the purchase of 9.23 acres, which contain Country Village Apartments on Cusseta Road, for $525,000 to expand the land for the new school and a multi-sport athletics complex that will be constructed next to it.

The vote on the new Spencer's budget was 6-2. First-term board members John Thomas of District 2 and Frank Myers of District 8 said they were opposed because superintendent David Lewis' recommendation didn't include a guarantee of local contractors nor oversight of cost overruns.

After this story was posted on ledger-enquirer.com, MCSD communications director Valerie Fuller emailed the L-E on Wednesday evening, “In reference to the Spencer High School project, consideration has been given in the past to proximity to potential bidding contractors. As an example of this, information was shared with the Board last Wednesday.”

Shannon Smallman of District 7 was absent from the nine-member board's vote.

The vote on the land acquisition was 5-0, with Myers, Thomas and Mark Cantrell of District 6 abstaining.

The budget breakdown for the project that will produce a new Spencer is as follows:

$49,750,00 for construction.

$2,750,000 for architecture and engineering fees.

$1,600,000 for furniture, fixtures and equipment.

$1,600,000 for contingency.

$180,000 for construction testing.

$70,000 for reimbursable expenses.

$25,000 for environmental and geotechnical expenses.

$25,000 for surveying.

The money for the project will come from the 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that Columbus voters renewed in March with a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent. This SPLOST started July 1 and will last for five years or until $192,185,000 is collected.

Also among the 24 capital projects to be funded by the SPLOST is a multi-sport complex for district-wide use, estimated to cost $11 million. The preliminary budget for that project, which the administration hasn't presented to the board for final approval, breaks down as follows:

$7.7 million to build a stadium with artificial turf, field houses on both sides, a track and capacity for 4,000 fans, similar to Kinnett Stadium.

$2 million for parking.

$1 million for infrastructure.

$300,000 to build an artificial turf soccer field.

The new Spencer, envisioned to open in 2018, and the athletics complex will be constructed adjacent to each other on approximately 79 acres in south Columbus, within walking distance of Dorothy Height Elementary School, which the 2009 SPLOST funded, and Baker Middle School, which the 1997 SPLOST funded. The school district will use:

33 acres fronting Fort Benning and Cusseta Roads, acquired from the Columbus Consolidated Government in a land swap.

28 acres at the closed Cusseta Road Elementary.

9 acres at the closed Muscogee Elementary.

9.23 acres in the property at 4100 Cusseta Road from Columbus Sky LLC.

According to the listing at www.showcase.com, the Columbus Sky was asking $550,000 for the Country Village Apartments, which has 52 units. MCSD interim operations chief David Goldberg told the Ledger-Enquirer before the meeting that only two of the units are occupied now. He also said the Columbus Sky LLC representative he has been dealing with, Jordan Fisher, lives in California.

In the land swap, the city receives from the school district 21.44 acres at the former Marshall Middle School, 8 acres at Brewer Elementary School and 5.3 acres at the former Tillinghurst Elementary School.

The city will use the Tillinghurst property as part redesigning the southeast Columbus intersection known as the Spider Web, where Columbus Council unanimously voted in August 2014 to build an underpass under the railroad tracks to alleviate traffic delays. The excess land at Brewer would be used to build a road connecting Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Buena Vista Road, and the Marshall property would be used for unspecified development.

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow him on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.

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