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Wetlands take big bite out of school budget

The mitigation of eight to nine acres of wetlands on the Bethel Road site for the new Hartselle High School is going to take an estimated $450,000 bite out of a $40 million budget, according to Findley Frazer, director of environmental engineering for the architectural firms of Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood.
Frazer addressed the wetlands issue at the June 28 meeting of Hartselle School Board.
He said two options were pursued in seeking the most economically feasible way to deal with the wetlands and a stream that runs through the 55-acre site: Purchase credits from a wetlands bank and pipe the water underground or divert the stream and use it to establish a water feature along the west and south sides of the school property.
“I have talked with an individual who has a wetland mitigation bank and has acreage to sell,” he said. “The quote I got was $450,000 and that does not include the cost of pipe and moving dirt to locate the stream underground. I learned that the pipe alone would cost about $400,000, after talking to a couple of contractors.”
The diversion of the stream and its use as a water feature and outdoor classroom will cost much less – about $450,000 – and will offer an educational benefit, Frazer said. It would also generate about 15,000 yards of dirt for use in building up the foundation for the school building.
“We’ve completed plans for the water feature and are ready to submit them to the U.S. Corps of Engineers for permit consideration if that is your desire,” he said. “A permit request of this nature will involve a 30-day public notice and usually takes about four months.”
In response to questions from board member Dr. James Joy, Frazer said the water feature would probably not have stream flow year round but would be reduced to standing ponds of water during dry period and its shallow banks would be covered by flowering plants, visible from classrooms and hallways on the south side of the school building as well as the cafeteria.
“In others words, you wouldn’t be able to see the stream from a distance?” Joy asked.
“That’s right,” Frazer answered.
Bill Wallace, executive vice president of the architectural firm, said plans -–traffic, environment al and building—are on schedule.
“Our target is to have the design and engineering phase completed and be ready to go out for bids next January,” he said. “The building will be ready for occupancy at the start of the 2012 school year. “
“I know we’re all excited and want to see the building get out of the ground,” Reed said. From the beginning I said planning will take a year. It makes me feel good that planning is on schedule.”