Wait for stimulus funds holds up school projects
by David Atchison
Jun 05, 2010 | 1731 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PELL CITY — School officials are still waiting for the arrival of stimulus money so two major construction projects can begin.

“I would love to start construction today, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this profession, that is to be patient,” Pell City Schools Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hathcock said. “The bonds still have to be sold.”

Hathcock said it could take another five to six weeks after bonds are sold before the school system receives federal funds to pay for the major renovations at Iola Roberts Elementary School and construction of additions to Iola Roberts and Pell City High.

Last year, the school board applied for the stimulus money and was approved to borrow up to $4.7 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The system can borrow the money at an 1.8 percent interest rate.

“I don’t think we’ll see this (1.8 percent construction loan) again in our lifetime,” Hathcock said after the board approved borrowing the money.

School officials hoped funds would arrive in April, but the bonds are still not sold.

Hathcock said it could be August before the school system receives the stimulus money. The delay has changed building strategies for the two construction projects.

Work includes an estimated $3.6 million renovation project at Iola Roberts and a front addition to the high school, which is estimated to cost $789,000.

“We would have liked to have a lot of this work done during the summer,” Hathcock said.

He said when the construction project at the elementary school is complete, Iola Roberts will look like a new school.

Gary Mozingo, facilities supervisor for the school system, said state building inspectors are reviewing the electrical and basic floor plans for the two construction projects.

“Probably by the end of the month complete plans will be sent to the state for final approval,” Mozingo said.

The work at Iola Roberts includes a new gym, band room and four classrooms. The old school gym will house administrative offices.

Hathcock said Iola Roberts and the high school will have new front entrances, which will help tighten security at each school.

The new entrance at the high school will match that of the Pell City Center, which is adjacent to the high school. The front entrance will extend to the first row of the front parking area. The 3,300 square foot addition will house new administrative offices, while the old administrative office area will become counselors’ offices.

“We’re on hold until they sell the bonds,” Mozingo said, adding that the school system can’t bid out the projects until it has the stimulus money in hand. “Hopefully by September, we’ll have a contractor in place. … Right now, we’re sitting on ready.”