Published 2:57 am Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Council to secure $6M for $8M auditorium, stadium work

The Andalusia City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution authorizing the mayor and clerk to secure $6 million in financing for capital projects at Andalusia High School.

The council’s vote came within 24 hours of the Andalusia Board of Education’s decision vote to seek $6 million of the approximately $8 million needed to renovate the auditorium and stadium. Superintendent Ted Watson made the formal request of the council last night. The council’s vote was unanimous in favor of the project.

Watson said that members of the Public Building Authority – Charles Eldridge, Steve Posey and Paula Sue Duebelt – have been raising money for the project for months. With the help of Rep. Mike Jones, who secured at least $1 million in state funds for the project, they have contributions and pledges totalling $2 million, Watson said.

The bond will be designed, Watson said, so that less than half of the money generated for the school system with a half-cent sales tax will be used to retire the debt over a 25-year period.

“The balance will go into a maintenance fund to maintain facilities over all of the campuses,” Watson said. “That’s money the school board has never had before.”

Mayor Earl Johnson predicted it will take 60 days to put together a bond issue, and rates are expected to remain between 3.5 and 4 percent during that time.

“We have a timeliness issue here of trying to get started on this so we don’t tie up the auditorium for more than one academic year,” he said. “You can’t fix it without basically tearing part of it down, and it won’t be useable.”

Councilman Terry Powell made the motion to secure the bonds and Councilman Kennith Mount seconded.

Council member Hazel Griffin said that she came to the meeting “after much prayer and with a heavy heart. I didn’t want us to spend this kind of money.”

“But because the school board backed it 100 percent, and I don’t want to cause any hindrance, I’m going to agree to it,” Griffin said.

Powell said Andalusia is fortunate to even be in the position to consider the projects.

“There are schools throughout the state of Alabama that are in much worse condition that our facilities are,” Powell said. “They can’t even talk about it. Because of support of the citizens and businesses of Andalusia, we are able to make this a reality.”

The AHS auditorium opened in 1963; the stadium in 1950.

“We will be remaking it into something first class, and we can all take a lot of comfort in knowing our children will be playing in the best facilities,” Mayor Johnson said. “They will be as safe as they can make them playing a tough game. The (artificial turf) surface means we can use it for soccer matches, and the band can practice on it every day, and it still be in good condition come game night.”