Lowndes County looking at two sites for tech school

November 30, 2013 11:44:49 PM

Sarah Fowler - [email protected]


The Lowndes County School District is moving ahead with plans for a district wide Career Tech center.  


As far as where it will be located, the school board will decide between two pieces of land near Highway 50 and Lehmberg Road. The properties belong to Tommy Lott and Ralph Youngblood. 


The Lott property is located off North Lehmberg Road near Lowndes Funeral Home. It is listed at $768,900. 


The Youngblood property is located off of Hwy. 50 near Marvin's and the Nissan dealership. It is listed at $472,000. 


The properties vary in shape, accessibility and existing utilities. Both properties also have obstacles that would need to be taken care of before the board moves forward. 


While the Lott property is considered to be in a flood plain, part of the Youngblood property is considered wetlands. A cemetery with approximately ten graves is also on the edge of the Youngblood property. 


Lowndes County school board attorney Jeff Smith said any purchase of the Lott property is contingent upon Mr. Lott building up the dirt. 


"It has flooded before but it has a condition on it, and the condition is it would only be purchased if Mr. Lott builds it up," Smith said. "This one is in the flood plains but it would only be purchased if it was at an elevation that is above and no longer susceptible to floods." 


Smith said the board would have to decide between the two properties once appraisals take place. 


"What we would have to do, the board, through its architect, would have to get an appraisal and the appraisal has got be at or near the requested price." 


Smith added, "Of course, the appraisals would on the property after it's raised up. It wouldn't be as it is now." 


JBHM architect Joey Henderson is handling the project for the board and said appraisals on both properties were scheduled to begin soon. 


Henderson explained the process, saying, "The board had initially allowed us to pursue Mr. Lott's property. Mr. Lott offered the property saying, 'I will fill it.' It is now currently in a flood plain but his offer was 'I will fill the property' and he had documents from The Corps (of Engineers) that he could do that, very similar to what his neighbors have done. His offer was this property, filled." 


"So, the board said, 'O.K., pursue that.' In order to do that, we have to do diligence and get an appraisal," Henderson said. "Once we get that appraisal, we have to get a second appraiser to review and confirm." 


If the asking price on either of the properties does not meet the appraised value, Henderson said the board would have to decide on how to move forward. 


"If the appraisals come back at or below the offer price then the school can pursue negotiations and try to close out the deal," Henderson said. "If the appraisal comes back less than the offered price then it's a question of having to go back to the land owner and say, 'You offered this, are you going to come down or withdraw your offer?' 


Smith said if the Lott property is chosen, a pond would be created from the dirt that was used to build up the land. 


"You would wind up with a really nice pond right next to it and that pond could be utilized by the school and maybe offer some courses." 


Due to the wetlands and cemetery on the Youngblood property, the idea of a pond has not been proposed for that piece of land. 


Speaking of the cemetery, Henderson said, "One of our obvious concerns is there an old graveyard there we have to consider. Plus, it is not as visible. One of the advantages of it is, we do have the ability to get direct access to Lehmberg, we would have to build a road to do that, but we do have the ability to get access." 


If the Youngblood property is chosen, the district would pay to build an access road to the vocational school. The Lott property already has an access road that connects to Lehmberg. 


In addition to the obstacle of the cemetery and building a road, the Youngblood property does not currently have a running sewer line. A line would need to be installed and that would also be a cost to the district. 


Todd Gale with Columbus Light and Water would not speculate on the cost but said it would be pricey. 


Comparing the two properties, Gale said, "The Lott property is on Lehmberg and it has water and sewer and electrical all along Lehmberg road. The Youngblood property is 4-County territory, but I'm pretty sure they have access to electricity. There is a water line along that road that they can access. The sewer is the issue. The sanitary sewer ends there at the intersection of Hwy. 50 and Hwy. 12...getting sewer to that site is probably going to be the most costly utility out of the three." 


A construction date for the building has not yet been set. 


The board will discuss the properties at their December 9 board meeting.

Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.