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Glut of school construction projects foreseen

By Bayne Hughes · 340-2432

The money is coming, but a glut of projects could effect costs and materials availability when schools begin spending a $1 billion state bond issue next spring.

Sally Powell, the new Alabama Association of School Boards executive director, told District 8 school boards that they might want to spread their projects out or hold some next spring.

The state Legislature approved the record bond issue for secondary schools, colleges and universities during its regular session.

Decatur, Athens and Hartselle and Lawrence, Limestone and Morgan county school boards and superintendents attended the meeting at Decatur’s Holiday Inn.

Powell said the Gulf Coast is still undergoing hurricane reconstruction and the Jefferson County Commission recently approved a $1 billion bond issue. That could lead to difficulty in finding architects and contractors because they’ll have so much available work that they can pick and choose their projects.

Materials shortages, which would mean increased costs, are likely.

“It won’t be a buyer’s market,” Powell said.

Katherine Lynn, contract administrator for the state Building Commission, said school boards could begin the process of hiring architects and getting plans ready for when the money arrives. They would, however, need to pay the architects out of another fund or get an agreement that payment would come when the bond money becomes available.

She said it takes at least 30 days for the commission to review architectural drawings and give project approval. The commission also reviews bids and contracts and pays the contractors directly.

Powell said the Legislature also approved a $55 million incentive fund. School boards can apply for $25,000 to $250,000 grants. The grants can be for consolidation of schools, technology, natural disaster recovery, infrastructure for fast-growing school systems, career-technical facilities, libraries and capital needs to assist unaccredited schools.

The application deadline is Jan. 11.

A special incentive council of politicians will dole out the money through a grant process.

“This could be very political,” Powell said. “You need to make sure to you contact your legislators and make sure they know about your needs.”

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