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File / The Outlook Alexander City Schools superintendent Keith Lankford spoke to the Tallapoosa County Commission about the new high school in Alexander City.

Both Alexander City and Tallapoosa County schools have projects underway thanks to the 1-cent sales tax.

Superintendents from Alexander City Schools and Tallapoosa County Schools were at Monday’s Tallapoosa County Commission meeting to update it on the use of funds from the 1-cent sales tax levied by the commission just over a year ago.

Alexander City Schools superintendent Dr. Keith Lankford said the system is still planning its largest project, a new high school. Lankford said the preferred site at the moment is between U.S. Highway 280 and Highway 63 but still has lots of moving parts.

“We are currently planning the new high school,” Lankford said. “We are working with (the Alabama Department of Transportation) for entrances to the property from Highway 63.”

Lankford said the property has not yet been purchased but will be likely when all geo-testing is completed. In the meantime, Lankford said he is working with ALDOT to move up its time table for improving Highway 63 near its intersection with U.S. Highway 280.

“We feel like we are going to create a safe access,” Lankford said. “We want ALDOT to go ahead and do the work. This project is on the timeline for two years from now. (ALDOT) wants to raise the bridge (across Sugar Creek) 8 feet. We will have turning lanes and access lanes.”

Lankford said he hopes ALDOT will consider lowering the speed limits on both highways but especially U.S. Highway 280.

“You drive 280 through Childersburg and the speed limit is 45 mph at the turn off for the school,” Lankford said. “The school is another 3 or 4 miles from 280. In Harpersville, they slow it down well before anything. We are proposing to ALDOT to lower the speed limits on 280 near the proposed school.”

Lankford explained to the commission work has begun at Jim Pearson Elementary School. Lankford said funds for the new high school have been acquired but there was a delay in securing them.

“We wanted to begin construction this month,” Lankford said. “That has been pushed off until March 2021.”

Lankford said going to the bond market to finance the project took a while. The City of Alexander City signed off on the Alexander City of Education holding its own debt instead of the city in March. Then the Alabama State Department of Education had to sign off on the plan.

“We went to the bond market in June,” Lankford said. “The funds are sitting in a reserve savings account waiting for the project to start.”

The projects are the same ones Lankford and Alexander City presented to the commission more than a year ago.

Windle provides update on county BOE’s capital projects

Tallapoosa County Schools superintendent Joe Windle made a similar presentation to the commission. More than a year ago, Windle laid out a capital project plan costing $30 million. Windle and the Tallapoosa County Board of Education borrowed $25 million from Compass Bank at a rate of 1.96%.

“It’s simple math,” Windle said. “We borrowed $25 million for 25 years. That is what the 1-cent sales tax would carry. We could have gone for 30 years but that would have cost an extra $1 million.”

Windle said county schools have committed slightly more than $21 million to capital projects at all three of its campuses. The Tallapoosa County Board of Education has approved the construction of an auditorium at Horseshoe Bend School, a new elementary school at Reeltown and renovations to Dadeville Elementary School and the lunchroom for the Dadeville schools.

Windle said a decision on how to spend the remaining nearly $4 million will be left to next year and the guidance of newly elected superintendent Raymond Porter when he takes office Jan. 1.

Windle said Tallapoosa County Schools still have significant projects to complete.

“We have $12 million in needs,” Windle said. “The remainder of the money needs to go to address issues at Horseshoe Bend. There are no gutters or soffits on parts of the building. There is mildew that needs to be removed and painting to be done. There are bathrooms for the elementary school gym.”

Windle said those projects totaled $1 million.

At Dadeville the Tallapoosa County Board of Education rejected a $7 million bid for a new gymnasium and field house at the intersection of Bobo and Whatley streets.

Windle explained renovations of the current Weldon Gym in Dadeville are estimated at $2.5 million — projects Windle and Tallapoosa County Schools told the commission last year they would do with funds from the sales tax.

There is also an estimated $100,000 in furniture to be purchased for Dadeville Elementary School and $60,000 for the seating at the new auditorium at Horseshoe Bend.

Windle said Tallapoosa County Schools is thankful for the support of the commission through the 1-cent sales tax as it helped the system get out of debt and plan for the future.

“We never had a countywide facilities assessment,” Windle said. “We didn’t have the money for a countywide project.”

Windle said the assessment now gives the system a 15-year plan with student population projections.

Ultimately Windle thanked the commission for its support of the 1-cent sales tax measure.

“We have the one-month’s operating reserve now,” Windle said. “We have money in money market accounts and CDs. We have the money for these projects. None of this would have been possible if were not for you all passing the 1-cent sales tax.”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.