Delaying the West Cobb Ninth Grade Center is a “waste,” and the costs of building it later are “only going to go up,” said the lone public commenter at Wednesday’s Board of Education work session.
“To delay it does not make sense,” said Timothy Paradiso of Powder Springs, later adding: “I think the time is now.”
After a lengthy back-and-forth discussion on March 22, the board voted 4-3 in favor of pulling the center at Harrison High from a $14.5 million bid package—funded by EPSLOST—that included several smaller projects: track repair and resurfacing, theater renovations, emergency generator replacement and more.
Board member Alison Bartlett led the charge, saying that the district should re-bid those smaller Harrison projects; focus first on countywide ESPLOST maintenance projects like fire protection, security, technology and air conditioners; and move the center to end of the ESPLOST list.
Other points she made include Harrison’s student population declining thanks to the 2008 opening of Allatoona High to the north, and the extra strain that will be put on the hurting general fund by the upkeep costs from a new building.
Board member Lynnda Eagle fought back, noting how the project will have to be built eventually since it was approved by voters in the 2008 ESPLOST. She also said pulling projects after bids have been put out will hurt relationships with contractors, and construction costs will be higher down the road.
Something that wasn’t discussed on March 22 was the $460,000 that has already been fueled into the center’s design work.
“I see spending a half a million dollars with no expectation now because of the delay of getting any return on that money,” Paradiso said Wednesday. “Due to the changes now that you’re going to break apart the ($14.5 million bid package), now we’re going to be talking about even more money being spent. I think this is a waste.”
Paradiso explained that the center was recommended by Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and the Facilities & Technology Committee. Harrison needs the expansion because it has the most portable classrooms out of Cobb’s high schools, he said.
The board should bring the project back up for a vote and approve it, said Paradiso, who can be seen at the beginning of the above video.
Do you think the board should vote on the center again? Tell us in the comments.
At the end of Wednesday’s meeting, Eagle also commented on the center.
She said she wanted to address the families of Harrison to "offer my regrets for the delay in the construction of the ninth-grade center."
She thanked the booster club parents and other stakeholders who have called and emailed her to ask her to push the issue back onto the agenda, and she wanted to explain why she hasn't done so, even with the costs that come with the delay.
"It takes four votes," she said. "There are only three people who supported it. I can’t place it on the agenda."
She apologized for that situation but said it's a moot issue unless one of the four board members on the other side reconsiders.
Eagle represents Harrison but is set to lose it to Bartlett through the school board reapportionment map, approved by the General Assembly in late March.
Up for re-election this year, Bartlett recognized that she could lose voters because of the ninth-grade center but said: “I’ve always done what I think is right (even if it’s) not popular.”