LCSD picks career-tech location



Andrew Hazzard



The Lowndes County School District has chosen a spot for its $11 million career-technical center to be housed on. 


The school board voted Monday to purchase a 12.5-acre parcel Columbus accountant Tommy Lott owns behind Lowndes Funeral Home, near the intersection of Highway 12 and Lehmberg Road. 


The vote, which took place in executive session, was 3-2, with board members Jane Kilgore and Brian Clark opposed. 


Kilgore, the board president, told The Dispatch this morning the purchase price was $635,000. 


Kilgore said she and Clark were against the purchase because of traffic flow concerns. The site, she said, is not ideal for a school because of the high amount of traffic that travels through the area. She added that she felt like the building should be constructed in a more featured space. 


"We wanted it more out in the open," she said. 


After the board came out of executive session Monday, Kilgore did not publicly announce the purchase. She explained this morning that she wanted to speak to landowners first. 


The career technical center is part of a $44 million bond issue for LCSD that voters approved six months ago. 


Lott has previously said he plans to donate to the district another 20 acres he owns at that location. Lott said dirt work to ensure the land sits six-inches above the flood plain has been done. He said the site has water and sewer access, natural gas and drainage, and has been granted all needed environmental permits. 


The land is inside Columbus city limits.  


The board previously approved up to $800,000 to buy the career-technical center land, which was required to be at least 12 acres.  


The site was first discussed in 2013, when trustees began planning a bond initiative with a unifying component of the centralized career technical center for students from the West Lowndes, Caledonia and New Hope campuses to use.  


In a January 2014 board meeting, LCSD board members voted 4-0 -- Jacqueline Gray was absent -- to work with Lott on making a deal for his land. Lott said everything he did with the district at the time was verbal. LCSD abandoned the project briefly after voters rejected their first attempt at a $47 million bond issue in August 2014.  


When the second attempt at the bond, for $44 million, passed in May, the district re-opened the search beyond Lott.  


LCSD officials also received an appraisal in May on a 17.2 acre property belonging to S.L. Sethi on the west side of Highway 12; considered 20 acres Ralph Youngblood owns near Columbus Nissan; tried to purchase the vacant Lee Middle School building from the Columbus Municipal School District; and in September approved environmental testing at a four-parcel site totaling 18 acres on Highway 12 north of Columbus.  


Architect Joey Henderson of JBHM has previously said the building will take about 18 months to complete once ground is broken.  


Despite voting against the Lott site, Kilgore said she is happy to see the building finally have a home.  


"I think the career tech center is going to be a great, great asset for all the students of Lowndes County," she said.  




Other project updates 


Henderson told the school board Monday the New Hope athletics fieldhouse has been completed.  


In Caledonia, he said four of the six wings in the new elementary school have been finished. Henderson said some roof work is beginning to be done.  


Henderson will be holding pre -construction meetings with Weather's Construction Wednesday to being work on the Caledonia Fieldhouse and upgrades to the West Lowndes campus.  


Public notices have been put out to citizens residing near the site of the future New Hope High School, Henderson said. The public has 30 days to comment on the project; they were notified November 4.




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