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CMS project moves forward

GATESVILLE – The Gates County Board of Commissioners have formally adopted a measure that will allow the local government entity to move forward with borrowing up to $8.2 million for the Central Middle School renovation project.

The vote was unanimous by all five members of the board.

The total cost of the project is projected at $10.5 million. According to Dr. Barry Williams, Superintendent of Gates County Public Schools, the base bid is $9.04 million plus $1.41 million to cover the costs of five alternate projects within the scope of the main project.

“We have been working diligently these last months to arrive at a final plan for Central Middle School,” stated Gates County Board of Education chairman Ray Felton. “On May 31 we received pricing for the planned construction. The total price came in very close to $10.5 million. The commissioners voted to borrow not to exceed $8.2 million to yield $8 million for the school construction plus the $2.5 million Dr. Williams got from the state (Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund).”

Adoption of the measure – a findings resolution – came at a regularly scheduled meeting by the commissioners on June 6. There, Ted Cole, representing Davenport & Company – Gates County’s financial advisor on this project – presented the board with loan proposals from six banking institutions. Those were sent in by prospective banks that chose to answer an RFP (Request for Proposal) sent out by the county.

After going over each of the proposals, Cole told the board, during a scheduled public hearing, he was of the opinion that Sterling National Bank should be the choice as the lender.

Cole said Sterling’s proposal was an installment purchase contract, one where the loan is secured by a mortgage on the school itself. The loan comes with a 3.90 fixed interest rate at 20 years. That interest rate is lower than the others institutions submitting proposals for a 20-year payback.

If the closing date on the loan is July 18, as projected, the first payment on the debt service ($171,448 for a partial year) will be on Feb. 1 of next year. The first principal payment ($721,805) is due in 2020. Debt service payments would decline annually between years two and 20 – from $721,805 to $417,995.

Cole, in his presentation, stressed that the county setting aside the annual revenue it receives from the newly formulated Article 44 state sales tax will cover the yearly debt service payments on the Central Middle School project. Currently, that portion of the state sales tax revenue received by the county is budgeted at $559,500 annually. The county already has nearly $1 million ($970,974) set aside in current and previous Article 44 payments from the state for this particular project.

“With the debt service payment you need to make, the annual Article 44 sales tax revenue, plus the Article 44 revenue you’ve accumulated to this point, the necessary dollars are there to pay this debt service,” Cole said. “All of this can be done without necessitating a real estate tax increase of any sort.”

The action by the board at the June 6 meeting was the first of two they will undertake on this matter. At their July 2 meeting, the board will be presented with a loan issuance resolution. Pending the final approval from the state’s Local Government Commission when they meet on July 10, the loan can be closed by July 20.

The Central Middle School project includes the complete renovation of the existing sixth and seventh grade wings of the facility.

The area currently serving the eighth grade will be demolished and in its place will be 41,300 square feet of new construction. That part of the project includes a covered entranceway. He said that door will be open for students/parents to enter, but will automatically lock when the final bell rings signaling the start of classes.

The new construction includes – for school staff – a reception area, and office space for the principal, assistant principal, finance officer, School Resource Officer, guidance counselor, and school nurse. The main office section also includes staff restrooms, a large conference room, a work room and a storage area.

The education space includes a large Business Computer Technology classroom, computer lab, CTE classroom, and 10 other classrooms for math, science, social studies, language arts, health, and STEM. The plans also call for the construction of a spacious Media Center.

There are two large rooms that will accommodate the school’s band as well as space for art students.

Across from that area of the school is a commons, flanked by student restrooms. That leads into a new gym, one that will have a wooden floor and a seating capacity of 650. The gym area also features new locker rooms.

The exterior design will afford a better and easier accessible driveway, capable of handling 75 vehicles at the time for student drop-off and pick-up purposes. A separate area to the left of the gym will serve as the bus parking lot.

As for the five alternate bids mentioned earlier, they include the addition of a weight room (at a cost of $130,423), a revised renovation plan for the 7th grade wing ($834,174), installing a metal roof ($333,529), a gym divider curtain ($18,363), and installing aluminum canopies ($98,220).

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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