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BOE hears updates on projects

The school lot is completely cleared. The historic marker remains on the right of way.

News Staff Writer

During a workshop that immediately preceded a March 7 special called meeting, five members of Escambia County’s school board heard updates on 17 different projects that are in various stages of development. Some have been completed or are nearing completion, one or two are just getting under way, and a couple are still on the drawing board.
The list includes six projects that are ongoing or planned for four schools in the Atmore area — one each at A.C. Moore School (ACM) and Huxford Elementary School (HES), as well as two each at Escambia County High School (ECHS) and Escambia County Middle School (ECMS).
As Deputy Director of Operations Shaun Goolsby was presenting the updates, Maintenance Supervisor Bob Arant interrupted with news that he had just received a phone call telling him that installation of all the air conditioners in the ACM cafeteria had been completed.
Goolsby said one of the most pressing projects — replacing the cafeteria flooring at ECHS — is almost ready for forward movement.
“I spoke with the architects, and the drawings are at the state (department of education),” he said. “Once they come back, it’ll be just our three bids and we’ll roll with it. There are no electrical or mechanical in those drawings, so we hope to have them back (this) week.”
The local project closest to completion is the renovation of the HVAC system at ECMS, where a canopy replacement is also under way.
“It’s 90-percent done,” Goolsby said of the new heating and cooling system. “We’re waiting on the manufacturer for two units that go in the gym. All the ductwork is done, so we’ll just have to set the units in when they come in. We hope to get the canopy finished during spring break.”
Another undertaking that has seen steady progress is the major renovation (actually, rebuilding) of ECHS’s athletic field house, on which contractors are readying to put the roof.
“It’s around 60 percent complete,” Goolsby told the BOE members. “It’s going very well; we haven’t had any hiccups. They’ve done the interior; the electrical is roughed in. Now they just need some good weather to get the roof put on. The roofing materials are there, (the contractor) is just waiting for about 5-7 days of good weather to get it done.”
Perhaps the most anticipated local capital project — construction of 94-year-old HES’s first-ever gymnasium — is seeing some movement, but not much.
“It’s in the design phase,” Goolsby said. “The geo work is done, the survey is done, and Dr. Collier and I have been in touch with Poarch (Band of Creek Indians), as far as the next meeting with them.”
Tribal officials have committed $3 million dollars over two years to help fund the Huxford construction plan, which also includes an additional classroom. Huxford, which opened its doors for the 1928-29 school year, has never had an indoor area for physical activity.
A seventh local school property was included in the discussion, as the board talked about selling the land where Escambia County Training School and later Escambia County Middle School were each located.
Goolsby told board members the demolition of the former school was complete and came in $200,550 under budget, and Arant said the school system “should be getting back about $100 grand on the air conditioners.”
District 4’s Cindy Jackson said she thought it was time to convert the real estate into cash.
“Is it ready to sell?” she asked. “It makes no sense for it to be just sitting there.”
District 6’s Sherry Digmon asked the size of the now empty lot and was told it encompassed 22.5 acres.
“There’s nothing there; it’s a vacant lot, and we’ve got it gated off,” Goolsby said.
The deputy operations director added that the school system’s only responsibilities are to keep the grass cut and the litter picked up, to which Arant pointed out, “it takes longer to pick up the beer bottles than to cut the grass.”
District 3’s Mike Edwards and District 7’s Coleman Wallace were unable to attend the meeting.