School board tables gym vote

Published 11:56 pm Friday, August 18, 2017

The Troup County Board of Education voted Thursday night to table a discussion on two new gymnasiums until October’s work session.

The board was set to vote on whether to allocate $25 million of E-SPLOST V money to gymnasiums at Troup County High School and LaGrange High School, but after a half hour discussion, board member Brandon Brooks made the motion to table the discussion until October. Brooks, Kirk Hancock, Joe Franklin and Cathy Hunt voted yes on the motion — ending the discussion until the fall.

The cost of the gymnasiums is around $7 million more than what was anticipated, based on pricing from an architect early in the process.

“The estimate we got was $9 million, and we had no reason at that point to believe that was low,” said Superintendent Cole Pugh. “But in retrospect, that was probably a low estimate, and we got a low estimate on one facility and that’s multiplied by two.”

Several of the board members were adamant that gyms will be built. The question is whether or not to include indoor practice fields at each facility.

John Radcliffe, assistant superintendent over maintenance and operations, said the easiest way to lower the cost is to remove the indoor practice facilities, which are 35 yards plus an end zone. The cost of each field is approximately $2 million — money that could be put to use for academics.

Earlier in the night, the school board had voted on a guaranteed maximum price for site work at the school system’s new elementary school. The school system has budgeted $16 million for that project, which is not much higher than the projected cost of each gymnasium.

“There’s something in my heart that bothers me about spending $12.5 million or more on an athletic facility when all we are budgeting is $16 million for a new school,” Hunt said. “I want nice things for our kids, and we are going to deliver on those gyms one way or the other, but I look at these designs, and is this not pie in the sky? Are our priorities in the right place?”

Several members of the board noted that Thursday was the first time they had seen an updated design for the gymnasiums. The proposed gyms for LaGrange and Troup are different due to the land they will be built on. LaGrange is estimated to be 82,000 square feet due to spacing and Troup is estimated to be 89,000 square feet. The LaGrange gymnasium is estimated to cost $12.3 million, while the Troup gym is set to be $12.6 million, Radcliffe said.

The proposed Troup gymnasium will seat 2,130 people, which would make the school eligible to host regional events, and it includes a track around the top of the gymnasium. It also include a cheer/wrestling area, lobby, classrooms storage offices, locker rooms and more. It was unclear how many people LaGrange’s gym would seat, though it would be at least 1,800. Radcliffe said many areas in the gyms have been cut back to stay within budget, including a cheaper roof, eliminating a separate room that was requested to give cheerleading and wrestling their own areas and a smaller lobby.

“We have to take into consideration what passed this SPLOST, and I think it was the two gyms, what we promised and what we showed,” said board chair Ted Alford. ”I think we have a responsibility to follow through on what we promise. We’ve already been accused in the past of promising something and then not following up on it.”

Radcliffe said despite the increased costs, all of the E-SPLOST V projects are still set to be completed.  He said state money is helping to balance all the projects.

“I love football like everyone in here but it speaks to what is important to us,” Hancock said. “If we have an extra $6-$8 million, where are we going to put it? We can put it into an indoor practice facility or we don’t even have enough Read 180 licenses. We had to ask outside sources to help fund Read 180. I love that money from the Callaway Foundation, and I’m thankful, but I’m embarrassed we had to go ask for that money. We’re at a pivot point here.”

Callaway High School has a gymnasium that includes an indoor practice field, thanks to a renovation project. Hunt said that project was much cheaper than what is being proposed at Troup and LaGrange.

“We need to remember that whole project for [Callaway’s] athletic facility came in at $3.3 million. It’s really apples and oranges,” Hunt said. “We can’t look at that as part of our decision that Callaway has it and the other two schools should have it. It’s just not the same facility at all.”

“We have some different construction we have to do over there, only because the constraints of the site,” Radcliffe said of Troup.

The Troup County Board of Education will hold its September work session meeting Sept. 18 at 5:30 p.m.