NEWBERRY — The school board was once again faced with opposition about building a new district office building outside the downtown area at Monday’s meeting.
Despite the opposition from downtown business owners and concerned residents, including District 40 Rep. Walt McLeod, the school board listened and continued to discuss the prospect of building a new building along Highway 219/Main Street.
McLeod acknowledged the revitalization of the other schools, which he deemed a good thing, and said he heard about the August school board meeting and the debated district office building.
“The heart of Newberry County is the traditional downtown area,” said McLeod, “I urge you to carefully reconsider.”
He continued by saying that, “the school district office is a part of the heart of downtown.”
McLeod was the only one to speak at the public forum about the district building.
As requested from the August school board meeting by concerned resident, Laura Dukes, the school district presented their case as to how they came to the decision to build a new office on Highway 219 which is in between the Newberry County Career Center and the abandoned sheriff’s building.
Jim Suber, assistant superintendent of operations, presented the summary.
In addition to Suber, Barry Evans, program director with Cumming Corporation and Donnie Love, project architect with McMillan Pazdan Smith, presented a couple of different options for what the potential new district building may look like.
In Suber’s summary, he began with the date of May 2005 in which the board first approved the NICE installment purchase funds for major capital funds.
He stated that the district works closely with architects, engineers and construction management for a reasonable price.
Then in November 2010, there was a $3-3.5 million surplus in capital projects upon completion saving the district $1.7 million. The board unanimously agreed upon the capital projects.
He then continued with the district’s decision to ultimately sell the old Speers Street School to Newberry College.
In 2011, the board went forth with approving Cumming as the construction management group for the capital project as well as using McMillan Pazdan Smith for design on projects which include the current work on Newberry High.
In August, the board unanimously approved the sale of the old Speers Street building.
Later, the board discussed renovating the current building and McMillan Pazdan Smith even toured the building and gave a price. It was determined that it lacked functionality and was in the best economic interest to pursue construction of a new district office.
The board approved this with a 6-1 votes and as far as property goes, almost three acres belongs to the district and over one acre is to be purchased.
Suber says that the district feels that the Highway 219 location serves all of their stakeholders and the school district has and will always be a collaborative partner with the city.
The district also continues to be an active partner with the college as they continue to utilize the old Speers Street building.
Suber also points out that the district is working with city recreation as their refinished tennis courts at Newberry High are open to the public, free of charge.
Suber stated that the Highway 219 site is easily accessible to all the stakeholders.
After Suber presented the summary of the district’s want to build a new district office, Love presented a couple of proposed plans for the office.
The plans are one-story, but one is larger by about 2,800 square feet.
The smaller one loses about nine offices in which those administration people would stay in their current location.
Love said they are thinking about having a brick building along with raised glass ceilings which would allow for more light and less artificial light.
He also stated that since there are large glass windows, there are shades in which the person can see outside but people would not see inside for security reasons.
The building would be somewhat closer to the road than the career center and the road that goes from the high school to the career center would be extended.
The board members expressed concern with the meeting area, which would be used for board meetings, should not hold less than what the Learning Center room currently holds.
A goal of the office is to bring as many of the administration people in house as possible.
However, the special services staff which is about a staff of 15-18 people may not be able to be housed in the district office.
The building would sit on 4.4 acres and there would be between 80-90 parking spots.
In addition, there are more rules and regulations that must be followed because the building is a school district building. It’s not as extreme as a school, but there are still regulations that are more detailed than another business building.
Love did answer chairman Jody Hamm about renovating an older building and said that with renovating, “you don’t know what you are building into.”
The board did not come to a decision about the district building.
The next school board meeting is Oct. 22 at the Learning Center at 7:30 p.m.