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Rebuilding Enterprise schools a priority in session

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Leaders in the Alabama House and Senate promised to make rebuilding two tornado ravaged schools in Enterprise a top priority of the 2007 regular session, which began Tuesday.

Bills were introduced in both chambers to provide emergency appropriations to finance the rebuilding of Enterprise High School, where eight students were killed when a hallway ceiling collapsed during a tornado Thursday, and Hillcrest Elementary School, which is next door to the high school and was ripped apart in places by the storm.

Sen. Jimmy Holley, D-Elba, whose district includes Enterprise, said an architect has estimated it would cost about $59 million to rebuild the high school and $17.6 million to replace the elementary school.

Holley said some of the cost of rebuilding the school will be paid by the school's insurance and by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But he said the state will need to pay the remainder of the cost.

The bills introduced in the House and Senate would provide a special appropriation to the state Board of Education to cover the cost of rebuilding the schools. The board would later repay the state any money received from insurance payments or FEMA, Holley said.

Rep. Terry Spicer, D-Elba, whose district also includes Enterprise, introduced the bill in the House. He said it's important for the Legislature to act quickly to show support for Enterprise.

"It was the worst thing I ever witnessed. The destruction was horrific. When you look at it on TV it doesn't give you the full picture," Spicer said. He predicted it would take two or three years to rebuild the school.

House Speaker Seth Hammett and Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom, who presides over the Senate, said the legislation would be given top priority. Hammett said he expects the House to vote on the measure next week.

"We are absolutely committed to rebuilding that high school and elementary school," Hammett said.

Folsom said he expects rebuilding the schools to be the Senate's "very first order of business."

The proposed legislation will be considered Wednesday by the House Education Appropriations Committee.

The committee chairman, Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, said a robust economy and surplus in the education budget should help lawmakers find the cash to rebuild the schools.

Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY. All rights reserved.
AP contributed to this report.

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