Board to seek loans for Brantley gym project

Published 4:28 pm Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Crenshaw County Board of Education gave the go-ahead to seek loan terms to help pay for a new gymnasium at Brantley School.

The project, which is estimated at $1.7 million, would have a seating capacity of approximately 700.

In August, the board heard from architect Walter McKee of McKee and Associates who showed them plans and photographs of the inside and outside of the Billingsley High School gym, which seats 800 people. It would cost in the $1.6 million range, and included a brick and metal façade, vaulted ceilings, durable toilets and conglomerate sinks.

Email newsletter signup

Board member Bertha Jones, who abstained from voting for or against the measure to seek the loan terms, asked about the location of the proposed gym.

Initially, talks were to construct the gym in the area between the cafeteria, field house and high school building, but has since changed to the south end of campus either in the current parking lot, which would be located behind the home stands or in the location of the gravel parking lot near the early childhood building.

Superintendent Randy Wilkes said the location would be dependant upon soil tests as it would not be feasible to spend a large sum of the $1.7 million on site prep work.

Brantley Principal Dodd Hawthorne said at the August meeting he supported the idea of placing the new gym on the south end of campus as the initial location was in a high traffic area of campus and would disrupt the school day.

School board member Steve Sanders questioned the timing of a project of this magnitude with the current state of the economy.

“I don’t see people in my business spending that kind of money,” he said. “I will respect what the board decides.”

Sanders said he didn’t recall spending that kind of money in the classroom.

“What about the students who do not play sports,” he asked. “We owe it to every student in this county.”

Wilkes questioned whether Sanders thought that academics weren’t where they need to be.

“We spent the better part of a $20 million budget to get the academics there,” Wilkes said.

Dr. Charles Tompkins, who serves as president of the board, said that he felt that athletics is a valuable experience for young men and women in addition to the classroom, but said that he could understand where Sanders was coming from.

Board member Troy Hudson reminded Sanders that this wasn’t the first athletic facility the board has done.

Wilkes said the proposed gym at Brantley was developed from previous capital plans that included the construction of an auditorium.

When the board of education built the new elementary school at Brantley, there was no auditorium included in the project, and for more than a decade all of Brantley’s activities that would be held in an auditorium have been held in the “gymnatorium.”

BHS is the only school in the system that does not presently have a facility that serves solely as an auditorium, Wilkes said.

“Per consultation with an architectural firm, it was determined that the potential construction costs of an auditorium would equal that of a gymnasium,” Wilkes said. “The gymnasium projected has since become preferred.”

Sanders voted against the measure.

After the meeting, The Journal asked Sanders if he would have supported the project if it were for Luverne High School.

Sanders said he does not support any kind of athletic facility at any school given the current economy.

The project will be paid for out of public school funds, which are earmarked for things such as planning, construction, reconstruction, enlargement, improvement, repair or renovation of public school facilities.