Council talks funding for stadium, auditorium

Published 2:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2016

This architect’s rendering shows proposed changes to Andalusia Municipal Stadium, including the construction of a field  house and dressing rooms for the softball team.

This architect’s rendering shows proposed changes to Andalusia Municipal Stadium, including the construction of a field house and dressing rooms for the softball team.

Members of the Andalusia City Council, Public Educational Building Authority (PEBA), and representatives of the school board sat down Tuesday for what Mayor Earl Johnson told them will be the beginning of a marathon.

The special meeting of the three entities was called to begin discussing ways to finance proposed projects in the Andalusia High School auditorium and Municipal Stadium.

The public Educational Building Authority, appointed by the city council, has been working for months with architects on possible designs, and working to raise private money for the projects. In October, the drawings were unveiled to board of education members, and members of the city council saw them for the first time as a group on Tuesday.

Mayor Earl Johnson explained the scope of the project which includes:

  • An addition to the auditorium/gym entrance that upgrades public facilities and allows activities to happen simultaneously in both.
  • Upgrading the seating, surfacing, sound system and lights in the auditorium.
  • Tearing down the stage area of the existing facility and replacing and enlarging it to include a classroom, storage, and dressing rooms.

It would take six months for architects to complete the designs, he said, and a year to complete.

The Municipal Stadium project includes:

  • Removing the track and moving the field closer to the stands.
  • The installation of artificial turf, making the field useful for soccer, football, band practice, PE and youth football.
  • Construction of a new press box.
  • Construction of a new field house to include facilities for the softball team, as well as a dressing room for visiting teams. The scoreboard will be on top of this facility.
  • New visitors’ bleachers will be constructed.
  • Entrance ways will be improved.

“This is not a sprint in athletic terms, it’s a marathon,” Mayor Earl Johnson said. “It will take a while, but if we don’t get started, we won’t ever get there.”

Johnson said that the auditorium is expected to cost $3.5 million. To date, Rep. Mike Jones has helped secure $1 million, he said. Dr. Charles Eldridge, who chairs the PEBA, said his group has secured approximately $600,000 in private commitments to date, and plans another major push in coming weeks.

“I think we’ll have more than $1 million in private donations,” Eldridge said.

In addition, the board of education has earmarked $500,000 of the money it will receive this year from a relatively new sales tax for the auditorium project.

“So we are at $3.25 million,” Johnson said. “That’s about half of the project.”

Ken Funderburk, of Stifel talked with the group about the financing a portion of the project. Funderburk presented proposals for issuing bonds as general obligation warrants, and for securing bond funding by pledging only the revenue stream generated by the city’s sales tax for education.

Those participating in the meeting were:

  • From the city, council members Kennith Mount, Hazel Griffin, Ralph Wells and Terry Powell; and city clerk John Thompson.
  • From the board of education, board member David Bryant; superintendent Ted Watson; and administrator Brook Blair.
  • From the PEBA, Eldridge, Steve Posey and Paula Sue Dubelt.