G.S. to spend $11.6 million for elementary addition, new high school
By John Mullen
Gulf Shores has spent about $18.5 million so far in improvements and additions for the city’s school system and will discuss spending about $11.6 million more at its Aug. 8 regular city council meeting.
During an Aug. 8 regular session, the city council voted to spend the money for design and construction management to build eight new classrooms for the elementary school and a completely new high school on the Beach Express.
The city inherited debt service on the three existing buildings when it split from Baldwin County. Per the separation agreement, the county will pay the debt service on the $10 million until Dec. 1, 2024, after which the city will assume it and there will be about $7.2 million remaining.
Past improvements include traffic flow for student drop-offs, upgraded parking lots, repairs to the existing high school gym and a second gym on the campus and the nearly $5 million Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math lab and classrooms at the elementary school.
City Administration Steve Griffin gave a presentation at the Aug. 1 work session on the next phase of spending and on Aug. 8 the council voted to spend the money.
“Tonight, I have for discussion the idea to bring on and contract with Goodwyn Mills Caywood for a cost not to exceed $6.4 million to prepare design, construction and bid documents for a new high school on the city-owned 200 acres on the southwest corner of the Foley Beach Express and Coastal Gateway Boulevard,” Griffin said on Aug. 1. “This contract is inclusive of the monies the city had appropriated already, $644,000, toward the schematic plan. So, that effort is going on right now between staff and the school system.”
He added that Volkert will also be under contract to help manage the construction of the eight classrooms and the high school.
“Prices are all over the place so Volkert brings a value engineering component and has done work all over not just the state but the region in school construction management,” Griffin said. “I’d like to bring them on and recommend to you a contract of $4.8 million to do not only the new high school but the eight-classroom addition at the elementary school that we’re embarking on with Walcott Adams.”
Griffin said part of the work will include identifying renovations needed before the elementary takes over the middle school campus and the middle school moves to the current high school.
“It is a lot of money,” Mayor Pro Tem Philip Harris said. “These fees are large numbers. I’m sure if you’re hearing them for the first time maybe there’s some sticker shock in how we spend that kind of money. The contracts for these services are based on state standards and caps. There’s a lot of work other than design fees included in these numbers. We’ve got environmental work that’s got to be done, we’ve got security and an in-depth security program that’s added into that. Nutrition, designed fixtures and furniture and studies.”
Superintendent Dr. Matt Akin was appreciative of the city’s efforts to not only add space but quality classroom settings for optimal learning environments.
“It wouldn’t be done without the city’s support,” he said. “We’re constantly looking at enrollment numbers. Not ready to release them because school doesn’t start until next week but just looking at the number of kids in the computer now, we’re seeing another seven to 10 percent increase this year. So, it’s needed for instructional purposes and certainly for capacity as well.”
Also, during the regular session, council:
• Heard from Finance Director Cindy King that the 2021 audit revealed the city took in $21 million more in revenue than it spent during the budget period.
• OK’d the purchase of a drone for the police department for $31,536 from Volatus Aerospace which had the lowest conforming bid of the eight received by the city.
• OK’d assembly permits for the Bloody Mary 5K run/walk on Sept. 3, the Brett Robinson Coastal Alabama Triathlon on Sept. 10, a 9-11 memorial service on Sept. 11, and for movie nights at Meyer Park in October, November and December.
Orange Beach business owner John “Tater” Harris has filed suit against the city of Gulf Shores after his application for a business license to rent golf carts in the city was denied. Named in the suit besides the city are the city council and Revenue Supervisor Layla Andrews.