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Union Academy potential site for job ‘re-tooling’ program for unemployed


Neal Wagner



The now-vacant former Union Academy building on 10th Avenue North soon may have a new tenant, members of the Columbus Municipal School District board of trustees announced during a Monday meeting. 


The Recruitment and Training Program of Mississippi, currently occupying a facility on Second Avenue North, could move into the large former school within the next few months if the move is approved by the Columbus Planning Commission and the City Council. 


"We would like RTP to be in there on July 1, so that''s why we''re working with such a tight deadline right now," explained CMSD Superintendent Del Phillips. "We want to lease the building to RTP to carry through with our commitment to fill the old Union Academy with something positive for the community." 


RTP is a non-profit "re-tooling" program for community members who have lost their jobs, explained Board Attorney David Dunn.  


"RTP helps workers who have recently lost their employment by helping to re-tool them to be able to find new jobs," said Dunn. "They especially work with disadvantaged members of the community, both minorities and whites." 


Although the former school building has been vacant for several months, a "surprising" discovery is preventing RTP from moving into the facility immediately, said Phillips. 


"Our only obstacle right now is zoning," Phillips explained. "Somehow, that building is not zoned as a school, even though it was a school for a long time." 


"That school has been around for a long time, and was there before zoning laws came about in the 1970s," Dunn added. "It was actually grandfathered in when zoning laws came because it had been there for a long time before then." 


Before the building can be turned over to RTP, the building''s zoning classification must be changed by the city''s government. It currently is zoned for residential use. 


"Tonight, this board just needs to approve authorization to go before the city with this request, and to say that RTP will have the board''s support in this," Dunn said shortly before the motion was unanimously passed. "After that, it will go before the planning commission and then to the City Council in May." 


If the contract is approved, RTP would rent the space for $1,600 a month, based on a state formula regulating 16th Section land. 




Bonds sale 


In other business, the board: 


n Unanimously approved the sale of the third and final round of bonds needed to fund the construction of the district''s new middle school. 


The $2.1 million in bonds sold to Trustmark Bank, will draw a 2.9-percent interest rate and will come after two other rounds of bonds totaling more than $18 million. 


"This final round of bonds will finish the finance of our new middle school," said Phillips. "We felt like it would be best to go ahead and purchase this last round now instead of waiting around to do it.  


"I think that interest rate is really, really low compared to what we have seen in the past," Phillips added. 


Per a January 2008 bond issue referendum, the school district can issue up to $22 million for construction of the new middle school, which is slated to open for school August 2010 and will be housed at the intersection of highways 373 and 45 North.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment stop deleting my post commented at 4/14/2009 3:41:00 PM:

I have made many posts on this website but someone keeps deleting them because they go against the positive image Dr. Philips is trying to display for Columbus. What happened to telling the truth and presenting both sides of the story. No wonder nobody buys the Dispatch anymore, your paper stinks


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