Commission Rejects Postponing Middle School Funding Vote

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Aug. 20 special called meeting, Franklin County Commission Chair Eddie Clark proposed postponing a vote on a resolution authorizing the mayor to sign a $1.8 million bond to fund the design work for two new middle schools. The commission overrode Clark’s proposal and voted to authorize the $1.8 million bond.
“Last month, the commission approved a resolution to go forward with building two new middle schools,” Clark said. “Passing the bond resolution to fund the design work would bind the mayor-elect and five new commissioners to the decision without getting to vote on it.”
Clark stressed the $1.8 million bond resolution only funded the engineering and design work, not the estimated $46 million needed for construction. He expressed concern about the cost to the county if the new administration decided not to go forward with the project beyond the design phase.
Commissioner Dave Van Buskirk objected to Clark’s proposal to postpone the vote to September when the newly elected commissioners and mayor took office.
Asked to weigh in on the discussion, mayor-elect David Alexander said, “I’ve participated in hundreds, maybe thousands of votes as state representative. There were maybe a few I wanted to change, but I always stood by my vote. If you still think building two new middle schools is a good idea, abide by your vote.”
During the campaign, Alexander favored renovating the aging middle schools rather than building new schools.
The commission voted 11 to 3 to proceed with a vote on the $1.8 million bond resolution and 12 to 2 in favor of authorizing the mayor to sign the $1.8 million bond.
Commissioners David Eldridge and Lisa Mason opposed proceeding with the vote and also voted against funding the design work for the two new schools. Commissioners Doug Goodman and Gene Snead were absent. Both Goodman and Snead previously voted against building two new schools.
“I’m in favor of building the new schools,” Clark said. Clark voted against proceeding with the vote, but in favor of authorizing the funding.
On behalf of the Recreation Center Committee, school district STEM coordinator Maranda Wilkinson updated the commission on the initiative to build a recreation center at the city park adjacent to the Swimplex. The proposed 50,000 square foot facility would house a multi-purpose gym, wellness center, game room, jogging track, locker rooms, climbing wall, childcare area, and a lobby with vending services.
Wilkinson cited corporate sponsors, grants and donations as potential funders for the $12.5 million project.
Recreation Center Committee Chair Van Buskirk acknowledged county financial support would probably be needed, but “we believe we can raise a sizable sum of money to get started.”
The project has been in the discussion phase for more than 30 years.
“This is a project that has to get done,” said Commissioner Johnny Hughes. “We have to find a way.”
Van Buskirk asked the commission for a vote of confidence in support of the committee continuing with its work.
Clark stressed the vote “would not be binding and would not obligate the county to funding the project.”
The vote of confidence received unanimous support.
Calling attention to the new video screen in use for the first time that evening, Van Buskirk thanked the Tech Committee chaired by commissioner Helen Stapleton. The screen will be used to display the agenda and related meeting documents.