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Rising costs weigh on new school site selection

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Floyd County Board Of Education

If Floyd County Schools moves forward with building a new Pepperell Middle on the current site of the school, the school system still faces a higher than estimated project cost as construction costs continue to rise.

The school system has not made a final decision on building the school on the current site, as it seeks community input before moving forward, but the longer any construction is held back means a higher price tag in the end, according to Superintendent Jeff Wilson.

“Anybody who is building a school right now is seeing the price per square foot going up by the day,” Wilson said during a community meeting Thursday at Pepperell High School.

During the meeting, Wilson explained to Pepperell district personnel and community members that when voters approved an extension of the 1-cent education local option sales tax, which will be the primary funding source for the new school, in November 2017, the construction cost per square foot was $135. By the time school system officials and board members began looking at other options than the Landers Drive site on June 15, the price per square foot was between $178 to $207. And by next year, the cost is expected to be between $215 to $250 per square foot.

“We’re in a situation … where we’re a million dollars over before we even start,” Wilson said.

At the time of the ELOST vote last fall, the cost of building the school was estimated around $20 million. With the price per square foot estimates for 2019, the total cost of construction could be anywhere between $22.4 million and $26 million.

However, the two other sites previously considered, property off Landers Drive and a site at the high school where the baseball and practice football fields are, each came with more than $4 million attached.

The Landers Drive site would have required an additional $7.9 million for foundation work, while cost of relocating the fields at the other site along with foundation work would have brought with it over $4 million in expenses. Also, the baseball field site was not approved by the Georgia Department of Education.

If the school system moves forward with building the new school on the current site, the expense of building a new gym will not be incurred. The plan would be to renovate the gym into a “state of the art” facility, Wilson said, rather than pay an estimated $7 million to $9 million on a new gym. Renovations to the gym are projected to be around $1 million, he said, and would include equipping it with air conditioning, something it doesn’t currently have.

The goal would be to start demolition of the current school after students move out at the end of this school year, aiming to have them ready to move into a new school by midway through the 2019-2020 school year at the earliest. McHenry Primary, which will close at the end of this school year, would be used to temporarily house middle school students until the new school is built.