Committee discusses capital projects for schools

Published 6:34 pm Monday, March 3, 2014

Chilton County Board of Education members and local leaders met at the Central Office on Thursday afternoon to talk about the school system’s infrastructural needs during a Capital Planning Committee meeting.

Chilton County Schools Superintendent Dave Hayden started by giving the financial report in Chief Financial Officer Steve Yeargan’s absence.

Hayden estimated about $2.2 million would be the maximum amount the board would be able to spend on capital projects this year in order to keep a reserve of funds for emergencies.

“Our biggest necessity right now is roofing projects,” Hayden said. “It’s safe to say all we can afford to do this year is roofing. There will be other things come along, but as far as any major building, I don’t see it in the budget anywhere.”

The capital projects fund is separate from the general fund and consists of earmarked money the board receives from the state each year to be used exclusively for buildings in the school system, not general operating expenses.

The amount of capital funding the board receives is based on student population.

In September 2013, Yeargan estimated having a balance of about $3.9 million in capital project funds in September 2014 as long as no emergencies arose during the year, such as schools needing unexpected repairs immediately (e.g. emergency heating and cooling system repairs).

Although the board is currently on track with a balance between $3.7 and $3.9 million, leaders are hesitant to spend more than about $2.2 million on large projects the rest of the year and risk getting into a financial bind if a costly maintenance emergency arises and the board doesn’t have sufficient funds to cover it.

“We do need to keep some in reserve,” Hayden said. “We don’t need to totally deplete that.”

Yeargan said the board has local funds totaling about $5.7 million but must keep at least $4 million of it in reserve to cover monthly operating expenses (employee salaries, utilities, etc.) at any given time.

During his report, Chilton County Schools Maintenance Supervisor Wayne Howell confirmed the immediate need for roofing projects at multiple schools in the county.

“Roofs will have to be done to avoid mold,” Howell said. “If we get our schools secure, we can worry about something else then.”

Howell explained if deteriorating roofs are not replaced quickly enough, they will leak and cause the buildings they cover to be susceptible to mold growth.

Extensive mold in a school building could result in the school being closed because of health hazards, and a costlier construction project to remove the mold and secure the structure from future water leaks could follow.

“If they ever start leaking, it’s going to be a problem,” Howell said.

In November 2013, the board approved to award bids for re-roofing projects at Chilton County High School and Jemison High School after minor leaks were detected at both schools.

The board approved a bid of about $1 million for the CCHS project, consisting of re-roofing the school, gymnasium and auditorium, along with a bid of about $81,000 to re-roof the JHS auditorium.

Construction is underway at CCHS but has not started at JHS.

Howell said the other buildings on the JHS campus need new roofs as well, and the cost would be about $1.9 million.

Barring any emergencies, the estimated $2.2 million would allow the board to finish roof projects at Jemison, but little else.

Hayden said other schools in need of new roofs soon are Thorsby, Maplesville and Verbena.

“We’re just doing it in cycles,” Hayden said. “We need to go ahead and do these things. Funding is the key.”

Within the last year, the Capital Planning Committee has “reactivated” after not meeting on a regular basis for a period of time, and members have begun meeting every three to four months.

The committee’s purpose is to assist the maintenance supervisor in assessing facility needs in the school system and compiling a prioritized list of needs that can be met using capital funds.

Committee members include the current superintendent, chief financial officer, board of education president, maintenance supervisor and others who have demonstrated a willingness and ability to contribute.

Current members are Hayden, Yeargan, Howell, board president Lori Patterson, board member Joe Mims, Chilton County Industrial Development Coordinator Fred Crawford, Peoples Southern Bank President Richard Moore, and local contractor and business owner Allen Payton.

All were present at Thursday’s meeting except Yeargan and Moore.

Others who attended the meeting Thursday were board member Pam Price and county resident Tom Bentley.

Bentley addressed the board about building a new school in Thorsby in the near future based on concerns he expressed regarding the condition of the current school building.