MARIETTA — The Cobb School District will receive $265,300 for 3.7 acres of buffer property in front of Allatoona High School after the school board agreed to sell the land to the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The board unanimously approved the deal Thursday.
The sale of the property along the east side of Ga. Highway 92 is in preparation for the transportation department’s planned widening of the state highway between Pickets Mill Place, nearly across the street from the high school, to U.S. Highway 41. The money will go to the district’s general fund before being reallocated by staff, according to David Chastain, school board chairman.
The widening project, which covers about 2 miles of Highway 92, is scheduled to begin in 2026, according to the school board’s agenda. GDOT estimates the project will cost about $27.2 million.
John Adams, deputy superintendent of human resources and operations, said GDOT approached the school district about the project and informed him they would need to install detention ponds in front of the high school. Adams said the district initially had concerns about the detention ponds, but the two parties were able to come to a compromise. He said the project will instead install level spreaders, a type of lower-profile irrigation ditch that distributes water across a greater distance than typical roadside drains.
“They are going to install a more innovative technology that’s less obtrusive and more curb appealing, if you will,” Adams said, adding that GDOT is offering fair market value for the property.
Adams also said the principal of Allatoona High School, Candace Wilkes, was privy to the negotiations and is happy with the new plan.
Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said during the board’s afternoon meeting that the original design was not acceptable. Ragsdale said, under the initial plan, the entrance to Allatoona High School would have been surrounded by detention ponds.
He added that when the state decides to widen a state road, the land will eventually be taken whether the owner wants it to or not.
“It’s not like we’re choosing to sell that road frontage there in front of Allatoona High School,” Ragsdale said. “But, at the end of the day, this was a compromised solution, and a much better one in regards to Allatoona High School.”
Board member Randy Scamihorn, whose post includes Allatoona, was not as optimistic about the use of the currently undeveloped land.
Scamihorn said his concerns included whether the level spreaders would still be attractive to the eye and whether the maintenance of the land along the highway, such as cutting grass, would be feasible after they are installed.
Ragsdale reminded Scamihorn that the land would be taken either way, and that GDOT had already made improvements to its plans that the department did not have to make.
“They could’ve said, ‘Here’s the deal. Here’s what it’s going to be.’ And we could’ve said, ‘We don’t like it.’ And they could’ve said, ‘Here’s the deal. Here’s how it’s going to be,’” Ragsdale said.
Scamihorn continued to push back on Ragdale’s conclusion that the school board would be helpless in opposing the sale of the property, but eventually displayed reluctant approval.
“Since we can live with it or whatever, and since you’re reassuring me that it’s not going to affect the looks, if you will, or the perception people will have of our school ... I’m OK,” Scamihorn said.
But, he added, GDOT would be making a mistake if it did not install a traffic light at the school’s entrance off Ga. 92 at Old Kemp Road as part of the widening project.
In other business, the board:
♦ Approved a $381,250 contract with Hellas Construction, Inc. for track resurfacing at Allatoona High School. The project would be funded through a special 1% sales tax for education, approved by voters in 2013. A completion date is estimated in July 2019;
♦ Approved an $831,096 lease agreement for the renewal of 78 portable trailers to be placed at Bells Ferry, Birney, Nickajack, Teasley and King Springs elementary schools, as well as Garrett and Griffin middle schools and Campbell and Osborne high schools; and
♦ Approved a resolution to work with the Georgia Department of Education to inventory school district facilities and develop a five-year forecast for future needs and facility maintenance.