Signing the documents took nearly as long as approving the sale of nearly $5.7 million bonds that will finance construction of a newGordon Lee High School.

Members attending a joint meeting of the Chickamauga City Council and the Chickamauga City Board of Education on July 28 approved six resolutions OK’ing the sale with little fanfare and a minimum of discussion.

Voters in November 2015 approved a referendum that would dedicate $2.9 million to secure roughly $12 million in state funding for replacement of the GLHS campus’ 85-year-old main building.

During the recent May 24 primary election, those same voters approved spending an additional $2.5 million for demolition of the current high school and landscaping at the new school.

School Board Chairman Corky Jewell and Superintendent Melody Day have described GLHS as “the glue that holds this community together,” something which the public affirmed by approving each funding referendum by about a 3-1 margin.

Several bonds have been successfully marketed, according to Tom Owens of Raymond James & Associates.

Owens told the combined boards that $5,665,000 for the project would be available on Aug. 11 from bonds with a total interest of 2.15 percent that are due Oct. 1, 2032.

Noting that the interest rate is the best since World War II, he said, “It is never going to be cheaper than this.”

Elected leaders were assured that repayment of the bonded amount is triple-guaranteed: the school tax (ESPLOST), the state intercept funds and, only as a last resort, the city’s ability to raise taxes.

Having several funding sources to make the annual payments of about $600,000 means it is extremely unlikely that sort of tax increase might be required to pay for a school that should serve the community for another 50-80 years — or beyond.

Once funding was approved, the school board announced that R.K. Redding, of Bremen, Ga., was the successful bidder and was awarded a $12 million contract to build the new school.

Clarence Boyle, facilities supervisor for the schools, explained how he, Financial Director Diane Miller and the superintendent reviewed three bids received.

Work is to begin Sept. 1, 2016, and be done within 700 days, according to the contract.

School officials said they expect the project to be complete by Dec. 29, 2017 — during the winter holiday break — and ready for occupancy during the second semester of that school year.

Mike O'Neal is assistant editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga. He can be reached at the Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at moneal@npco.com.