City tackling high school issue
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
City government and city school system leaders will come together Nov. 14 to discuss the launching of plans for a new Hartselle High School. The meeting will be at F.E. Burleson Elementary School immediately following Hartselle School Board's regular monthly meeting at 6 p.m.
Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed and Mayor Dwight Tankersley set up the meeting last week at the school board's request. Board members discussed the subject briefly at their Oct. 14th meeting and agreed that it was important to sit down with the city's elected officials and get their input as a first step in the planning process.
"Everyone I've talked to about the subject since our last meeting has agreed that we need a new high school," Reed said. "I understand one was envisioned in about 10 years when the Bethel Road property was purchased several years ago. I think we've reached the point where we need to start planning."
"The planning for a new high school is a lengthy process. It would take six to eight months to start a campaign of selling the community on the need; three to three and one-half years to get through the planning phase; and another one and one-half to two years in the construction phase."
Tankersley is one of those who agree that a new high school is needed; however, he said he will need answers to several questions before making a commitment to support such a project. The questions he mentioned include: What are the advantages of having a new high school? How is the old school going to be used? How much is it going to cost? Where is the money going to come from?
Council President Kenny Thompson, a retired school principal, said he welcomes the opportunity to meet with the school board to discuss future school needs but pointed out that the city's general fund in its present state couldn't stand the appropriation of any more money for school bond retirement.
"I've been told it could cost up to $25 million to build a new high school," he said. "If you're talking about financing a project of that size with local revenue, it would take a 20-mill property tax increase. "It would be a hard sell to get the voters of Hartselle to approve any kind of a tax increase much less one of that size."
"We need to get the input of our city fathers on this important matter before moving forward with the planning," Reed said. "I look for it to be a very open, cordial meeting."