Just the Facts

School projects top board meeting

Avatar photo

Dan Finnerty

The May 14 Macon County Board of Commissioners meeting addressed numerous business topics, including an update on the Franklin High School (FHS) project, the Macon Middle School (MMS) track effort, Macon Early College building repair, and a public safety radio system for Macon County schools. 

The architectural firm LS3P’s Emily Kite provided an update on the FHS project. Authorization for entering the Procurement Phase, with associated design fees, and approval of the updated revised schedule was requested. The projected cost for the procurement phase is $238,081. Approval of the fees requires a budget amendment and while commissioners conceded that approval would be granted, they agreed to postpone allocating the funds until a meeting with the Macon County School Board scheduled for May 27.

Macon County Schools Auxiliary Services Director Todd Gibbs delivered MMS track replacement bids to commissioners. Four bids were received with the lowest coming in at $930,180 (GeoSurfaces) and the highest at just over $1 million (Baseline Sports Construction).

Commissioner Paul Higdon summed up the importance of moving forward after some lengthy discussion. 

MACON COUNTY Schools Auxiliary Services Director Todd Gibbs discusses the MMS track replacement bids with the county commissioners. 

“It’s phenomenal what our track programs at FHS produce – the quality of those [athletes] – we’ve not had a home track meet … these children deserve a regulation track and that’s the endgame.” 

Commissioner Josh Young motioned to enter into a contract with GeoSurfaces for the track, along with the associated budget amendment, which was seconded by Higdon and approved by commissioners.

Macon Early College Repairs

Project Manager Jack Morgan presented a proposal to develop corrective design and associated construction administration services for the Macon County Early College building. Some issues identified are brick piers that are failing and need to be removed and columns that have decayed. Moisture issues are also evident, some of which are due to faulty grading around parts of the building.

The proposal offered was from Looper Architectural Design and Planning at a fee of $15,750. Looper would provide design and documents as well as monitoring of construction. Testing services also would be required at a cost of approximately $5,000. 

A budget amendment was needed in order to allocate funding by the county. Commissioner John Shearl motioned to provide funding from the existing fund balance, which was seconded by Higdon and subsequently approved by the board.

Morgan also addressed an effort to provide public service radio system availability to Macon County schools through two-way radio communication within buildings during emergencies.

Two proposals were received, with Morgan recommending Haynes Technologies out of Asheville. One system has already been installed in MMS, and the next step is for connectivity to the N.C. Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders (VIPER) system on May 29. 

Morgan proposed testing in all remaining six Macon County schools, except FHS and Bartram Academy, due to the impending combination of the two schools within a new complex. 

Total projected cost is not to exceed $7,500. Young motioned to approve a budget amendment for the testing funding, which was seconded by Commissioner Danny Antoine and unanimously approved.

PULSE to be a Plus for Students

Macon County Schools Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director Colleen Strickland’s and Economic Development Director Tommy Jenkins’s offered an update on the Macon County Partners United in Learning and Skills Exchange (PULSE) internship program. The program is designed to provide CTE concentrators with real-world work experience and prepare them for future careers. It includes 120 hours of an on-site internship, allowing for meaningful immersion in a workplace environment. Participants completing the program are eligible for up to a $1,000 stipend. 

A main objective of PULSE is to supplement formal classroom instruction with on-the-job experience that develops good work habits for students. Strickland addressed some of the program’s particulars.

“When students become a concentrator, they’ve done a Level One course, a Level Two course, and they’ve earned a credential that aligns with a pathway (a particular skill or job set). We’d like to offer internships to seniors, who are concentrators, and align them with businesses and professionals in Macon County.” 

Contracts set up between students, parents, and employers for the internship periods would last one semester. 

Strickland reported internships have thus far resulted in one student earning EMT certification and subsequently being hired within the county and another student who passed qualification as a pilot and has been hired by Macon Air. The presentation concluded with a request for support with the $1,000 stipends being awarded to students completing the program. No decision on the request was discussed by the board during the meeting.

For more information on PULSE, interested parties can phone CTE staff member Josh Brooks at (828) 524-6467 or email him at [email protected].

Sales Tax Issue

Finally, the issue of a sales tax referendum was revisited. Commissioner Chairman Gary Shields called for an amendment to the resolution adopted at the March meeting for a special advisory referendum that will revisit the 2022 one-quarter-cent sales and use tax on November’s election ballot. The resolution amendment reads “The Macon County Board of Commissioners hereby states its intent to use the revenues from the Article 46 one-quarter cent County sales and use tax, if approved by the voters of Macon County, to fund operating expenses in the Macon County School System.”

The only additional change requested, by Young, and approved by the board, was adding “capital and” to “operating expenses.” This will allow more expansive application of revenue within the Macon County School system.

In commenting on the measure, Shearl quipped, “Sales tax is the fairest tax there is – if there is such a thing … let the voters decide.”