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Shipman gives latest on high school plans

By Michael Butler

The talk of future development on the Tallassee High School campus continues. Superintendent Wade Shipman updated that status during the "Wake-Up Call" radio show on WTLS last week.

"We're set on where we want to go with the actual plan," he said. "There are some issues relating to funding and the scope of work in terms of timing. We're committed. We're going to meet as much as we can here in the month of July in finalizing a plan of action from the board, and we'll share that with the mayor and community."

Recently, city councilman Darrell Wilson suggested that the half cent sales tax passed for the school system be redirected towards recreation.

"I'm being asked, why did we pass that if it's not going to happen," Wilson said. "A swimming pool and soccer fields will be joint use for the school."

Approximately $350,000 has been raised over the past year and put in a designated account for the school.

"We want a scope of work and a timeline," mayor Johhny Hammock said. "We want the safety concerns addressed."

This week, preparation for new parking lots begins on property next to the school.

"A lot of trees will be coming down and the parking area developed, so we can get a lot of those cars off of King Street. Right now, I don't think you can get a fire truck down there if you needed to," Shipman noted. "We've done several things related to safety. We've put some fencing in to help secure the boundaries of the school campus. This is part of plan that first fixes our parking, then being able to move forward with the building. What we're doing is putting a plan together. We're hoping to contine to work with the city council."

Among the big questions to be answered still reverts back to funding.

"Part of the issue is, how much tax money do you use? If we use it all, then basically we're left with nothing to help us over the next 30 years," Shipman added. "Then it becomes, how much do we do? If we're talking about a replacement building for the main building, likely it's going to be a little bit bigger because our current auditorium doesn't fit our existing student body. Our goal is to include that in the plans. We've talked about doing a courtyard, reorienting things with our parking and around the gym area. One of the things we've done recently is skin these things back to whatever is just needed at this point.

"My first words out of my mouth was we need $30 million. With rising construction costs it's probably a little bit more than that now. That's the cost if you want to replace the annex, the main building, the old gym, possibly even the cafeteria. What's the total cost if you commit every tax cent to borrow which I don't think is a great thing. If you commit every cent then it's all gone for 30 years. That leaves our system and our community with absolutely zero flexibility."

Shipman expects an imminent decision with the school board on its final plans.

"We'd like to have something here in July. I've made a commitment. Our board has made a commitment to meet every week to give a final direction to send back to the city and see where it goes."