Fayette Board of Education votes 4-1 to build replacement Booth at new site

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The Fayette County Board of Education on Nov. 4 voted 4-1 to build a $46 million replacement school for Booth Middle School in Peachtree City. Pictured, from left, are board members Brian Anderson and Barry Marchman, Superintendent Jody Barrow, Chairman Scott Hollowell, and board members Roy Rabold and Leonard Presberg. Photo/Ben Nelms.
The Fayette County Board of Education on Nov. 4 voted 4-1 to build a $46 million replacement school for Booth Middle School in Peachtree City. Pictured, from left, are board members Brian Anderson and Barry Marchman, Superintendent Jody Barrow, Chairman Scott Hollowell, and board members Roy Rabold and Leonard Presberg. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Marchman lone vote against replacing the current Booth Middle School on Peachtree Parkway South; Board goes ahead despite formal opposition to the site by the Peachtree City Council — 

Fayette County Board of Education on Nov. 4 took Superintendent Jody Barrow’s recommendation, voting 4-1 to build the $46 million replacement for Booth Middle School.

The replacement school to be located on Stagecoach Road in Peachtree City was reportedly one of two options being considered by the school board. That said, Option 1, the “transformational” re-build on the current Booth site, was not included on the agenda item.

The motion to build the replacement school, previously referenced as Option 2, was made by board member Roy Rabold, with a second by board member Brian Anderson. The 4-1 vote came after brief comments by board member Barry Marchman and Chairman Scott Hollowell.

Marchman, the lone opposing vote, stated his previous position that questioned negatives such as the cost of the replacement school and traffic concerns given the school’s location.

Hollowell thanked Barrow and school system staff for their due diligence, noting that the replacement school would be the best decision in the long-term.

Barrow prior to the motion reviewed the Oct. 30 letter from Assistant Superintendent Mike Sanders on the subject of the replacement school.

“Facilities Services has received a proposed GMP (guaranteed maximum price) from MEJA Construction in the amount of $40.625 million for the construction of the replacement school for J.C. Booth Middle School. In addition, to the GMP, additional costs will include architect, civil engineering and energy management fees of $2.8 million and technology equipment and classroom furniture of $2.55 million. Facilities Services recommends an overall project budget of $46 million,” the letter said.

Board members on Sept. 23 heard that Option 1, called the “transformational” model that would re-build the school at the existing site, would cost an estimated $40 million, minus the approximately $6 million in state grant funds, if approved. The ESPLOST (education special purpose local option sales tax) had Booth slated for $10 million in improvements at its current site on South Peachtree Parkway.

Not surprisingly, consideration for the transformational re-build was not included in the information packet for the Nov. 4 meeting.

The vote to build the replacement school is done, though there is more to the story.

One issue deals with road improvements that will be required, such as the upgrade to the intersection of Stagecoach Road at its intersection with Robinson Road, and potentially with Ga. Highway 54 at Robinson Road and Carriage Lane.

It is not currently known what position the Ga. Department of Transportation will take on improvements to the state-owned highway.

What is known is that Peachtree City was clear on its position on the matter at the Sept. 25 public hearing.

The letter read by Mayor Vanessa Fleisch at that meeting said: “Please accept this letter as formal notice of our opposition to the Stagecoach Road/Carriage Lane location for the construction of a proposed new middle school. With very limited improvement options, this site will place an undue burden on the transportation network in the immediate vicinity. Based on our previous experience, traffic improvements can easily reach millions of dollars with limited impact on mobility within the corridor. No such funds are included in the current or future Peachtree City budgets. Further, we request that a comprehensive traffic study be conducted that incorporates the impact of the school, along with proposed new development in the area, before a final decision is made on the location of a new school.”

By way of example on city road projects, the city recently completed the re-vamping of the intersections at Planterra Way at Hwy. 54 and MacDuff Parkway at Hwy. 54. The work consisted of adding turn lanes on Planterra and MacDuff, both city streets.

The city’s two SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) funded projects took 3-4 years to bring to fruition at a cost of approximately $1.6 million.

Short of litigation or a change of heart by Peachtree City, and given that a school system cannot improve city, county or state roadways, it remains to be seen what the future holds for the replacement school approved Nov. 4.

Viewed from a different angle, ESPLOST (education special purpose local option sales tax) committee co-chair Neil Sullivan in a September letter to editor published in The Citizen had quite a bit to say about the money to be raised for school projects from the current ESPLOST. Some of his comments were aimed more at the $10 million amount for Booth listed in the ESPLOST, and the fact that nothing about Booth has changed since voters went to the polls to approve the ESPLOST.

“The majority of nearly $40 million funding required for either of these projects will come from the recently approved ESPLOST,” Sullivan said. “However, when the (school board) came to the public to request ‘ESPLOST III,’ they did not ask for more than $40 million for a new middle school; instead they asked for $10 million to renovate the gym and cafeteria at Booth as part of an approximate $70 million pool for repairs and improvements to all of our schools.”

Sullivan noted that his letter was not about whether or not to build a new Booth is warranted or necessary. The intent of the letter was “to raise a concern about the transparency of the process and completeness of the information.”

13 COMMENTS

  1. Peachtree City is grandstanding here. For the mayor to come out in a public forum like she did was a dog and pony show o get her board members re-elected. She has done quite a few things since her election that I don’t agree with and would not support her in her next election. I truly hope she’s on voted out. Secondly I would hedge to bet most of the people in Peachtree City are in favor of this new school. I was at the public forums on this and I saw the overwhelming support for the new school. The reality is we have a silent majority here and you critics will realize that in the voting polls

    • PTC is grandstanding? Back in early September, the BOE hadn’t even approached PTC about road improvements. It’s my understanding, at the meeting in late September where Fleisch addressed the BOE, they still hadn’t contacted PTC. Does anyone know what’s been done since? Does anyone know if the traffic study has been done? As I have stated before, I’m not necessarily against the new school, but against the process of how we get there. Is there anyone that knows how to negotiate anymore? Is there anyone that actually leads these initiatives – real leaders? If PTC is forced to make road improvements in the area, where do you think that money is going to come from? Taxes will go up and some other project that desperately needs attention gets pushed aside. And, what if PTC says, let the courts decide – we aren’t improving this intersection? Yeah, added fees that again, takes away from other projects that PTC desperately needs. Why do these small Boards refuse to take the time to present projects professionally and effectively? The answer is – they don’t know how. We elect officials because we like them. Because we like their attitudes. We like their looks. We don’t elect these officials for their knowledge, because frankly, we don’t even know who they are. We don’t even know if they have what it takes to be a real leader. This whole debacle reeks of moth-balled suits and blouses.

    • The “overwhelming support for the new school” you saw was from those living outside PTC city limits, a couple of business parties, as well as the district’s staff and faculty members and some of their family members.

      The Mayor works well with current and prior City Council Members; they get things done. I may not always agree with them, but they do well reflecting the voices of the Constituents. That’s why they get reelected! Sometimes, especially when working with entities like the FCBOE, they have to get ugly, early.

      There still remain options for the City. Deny permits for obvious safety concerns, cite overweight construction equipment, and of course, not disperse funds for access improvements. If we really want to get dirty, we can sponsor our own charter middle school.

      The FCBOE has a history of surprising municipalities with new ways to spend money. Remember the “Performing Arts Center?” How about creating positions to accommodate staff family member(s)? Also, why can we not find comprehensive minutes on the FCBOE meetings. While streaming is grand, it doesn’t compare to actual documentation when making business decisions. The FCBOE is an administrative hoax of shell games.

      I personally will like to see the superintendent leave and a couple of FCBOE Members voted out of office, specifically the two from District 3 and 4.

      • Not sure that helps Doug. We already voted out the two ladies on school board that were pushing new schools a decade ago. One had a builder husband as I recall. Voting them out didn’t do too much if we are faced with this irresponsible decision and alarming behavior from their replacements.

        Chances are this thing will get delayed by lawsuits and something bad like asbestos or mold will flare up at Booth in the next couple of years and everybody will get in panic mode. Which of course means the city will cave. Most likely scenario is they deed the streets to the school board and the school board can do road improvement on property it owns.

        Plenty in the budget. A $40million project would have $2million for contingencies and “unexpected” cost overruns and another $1million for graft and corruption, so the funds to widen and pave the roads are there.

        • Robert, I hate pragmatism when I’m jousting with windmills!

          After reviewing the last 10 years of FCBOE administration, I’m totally convinced the Board hired a superintendent with the wrong characteristics to advance the school system. Of course District 4 threw a wrench in progress, but an average competent administrator should be able to work with that. In this particular situation, the FCBOE Members should require public disclosure, not by speaking of issues, but thoroughly and formally documenting the issues. Streaming Board meetings is an improvement, but it isn’t a substitute for reviewing hard copies of statistical facts. Even with certified annual audits, the School System hasn’t put together a comprehensive budget, much less executed one, since 1993 (when I moved to PTC) and we had an excellent School System. In better words, don’t tell me; show me. Maybe it’s time for the State of Georgia to improve public transparency of School District reporting standards. It has become too easy for “creative management” to hide behind the current standards. At the local level, we obviously choose to take the paths of least resistance.

          • Pragmatic is my default attitude, but you are correct – things seem to be slipping. The superintendent does not seem to be leading, he’s more of a go along to get along kind of guy. He is good at creating staff positions though. The board is operating free of scrutiny and that’s never a good thing.

            My first reaction is that the cause is citizen/parent/voter apathy. Look at yesterday’s election. 2700 voted in PTC, a town with a population of 38,000. I realize some are kids, but come on – that seems apathetic to me. Probably be similar numbers or percentages when people vote on school board.

            The school apathy is probably due to our population being so old – no longer have kids in school, many don’t even pay school taxes – that adds up to don’t care. So in that vacuum, the school board just does what it feels like doing. Oh well, maybe the millennials will fix all this.

            See that? I just went from pragmatic to apathetic in 3 short paragraphs. It’s easy.

  2. “Follow the money…..” anyone done a property records searches along Stagecoach Road?? Looks like the owner of the “selected” construction company OWNS about 23 acres along Stagecoach…wonder about that “deal” with the BOE……
    The thought about the BOE pressuring PTC on the roads issue after the school opens is valid……happens all the time!
    Lastly, how can we (citizens/voters) possibly trust anything this Board and superintendent do or say? It’s painfully obvious that they do not give a hoot about the “will of the people”; maybe we can change that with future elections? Remember, they built an UNNEEDED school (for Pinewood?), have closed 4 schools in recent years, and have supported the “bloating” of the system staff at taxpayer expense while watching enrollment remain (relatively) stagnant for years.
    If it walks like a duck…

  3. Put me in the WTF?!?! camp. I let a lot of things slide, but this takes the cake. You know, there’s a right way to do things and a wrong way and it’s obvious this debacle falls into the latter. I’m not really that upset that they want to build a new school. I’m p!$$ed because it was pretty clear that most taxpayers didn’t want it and I’m all for the will of the people, no matter how misguided “those people” may be. You don’t ramrod something down the throats of people that are paying the bill. The other WTF! moment comes from the fact that they haven’t gotten a commitment from PTC, to do the road improvements. I’m with Robert on this. I think that their plan is to make the PTC council the bad guys and force their hand. So here’s the scenario. School gets built and has an opening date. They open with no road improvements and the wrath of anger is directed at PTC until they’re forced to cave. Now, there’s a huge mess in improvements while the school is in session. This is a recipe for disaster.

  4. This is the first time I actually want a paid or voluntary “public servant” fired. I want the superintendent fired. I “feel” he is too close, intentionally or not, to a private agenda to administer our County’s public education strategy. I haven’t been this disappointed in Government since WASA declared they could expand services without ownership support. Even then I thought the WASA Board Members did a good job, just got a little carried away.

    I don’t think the superintendent got a little carried away. I think he has an unpublicized strategy up his sleeve and making untrustworthy.

  5. Have a rental house next to this mess. After the “Fayetteville bypass won’t be used to feed Sandy Creek” lie and then using our education dollars to build Pinewood a new office on Veteran’s and Sandy Creek, it’s about time I get some collateral profit. We can’t seem to stop the crooks so at least I’ll come out ahead on this one.

  6. This is really a mystery. Clearly this was a preordained outcome, the mystery is why. Usually when liberal-leaning politicians ramrod a questionable spending bill through the system one only has to “follow the money” as the saying goes. In doing that it becomes obvious that radical donors to those politicians have a special interest (usually financial, but sometimes jobs or handouts for a protected class) in getting that spending bill passed. Distasteful, but understandable.

    The donor special interest explanation does not work here because the citizens and taxpayers are the donors and we already voted to provide funds to improve the old school – not build a new one. So then, what else is there? Legacy building sometimes motivates elected officials. Their ego is enhanced by getting their name on the sign at the entry to a popular project, but that seems unlikely here. That leaves sheer stupidity or perhaps the “we know what’s best for you” syndrome, but that’s hardly going to be worth the blowback that will be coming their way over this boondoggle. Like I said, their motivation is a mystery.

    Clearly their strategy is to build this school and try to make it look like Peachtree City was negligent in not planning ahead by improving their roads – shaming them into a last minute emergency flurry of spending “for the children”. That might even work if we get some new and inexperienced liberals on city council. Which leads to another mystery – why wouldn’t the school board delay this vote until after today’s city council election? That way they would know which way the wind was blowing.

    Of course I fully expect Terry and Mike to get reelected today and they can team up with Vanessa and show the school board that they are not going to be “road shamed” into spending city taxpayer dollars to support a school board decision to spend their taxpayer-approved renovation dollars improperly on new and unwanted construction. And maybe a citizen lawsuit could delay this project a few years and by then we would have some new people on school board who understand how to stay in their own lane when spending taxpayer dollars.