Daily Mountain Eagle
Members of the Jasper City Council held a work session Thursday afternoon to discuss raising the city’s sales tax by 1 cent to finance a new high school building.
Jasper City Schools Superintendent Robert Sparkman told council members that the building is planned for a 102-acre site behind T.R. Simmons Elementary School and the Daily Mountain Eagle.
The board of education purchased the property nine years ago. However, Sparkman said city schools officials had to table the project due to the nation’s economic downturn.
“We’ve waited four years, and we’ve begun to see things improve now,” he said. “This is a good plan and good timing.”
The new high school will have an athletics complex that the district’s middle school students will also use. Sparkman said students at Maddox Middle School are currently sharing athletic facilities with Walker High, but the current facilities are struggling to accommodate the two schools’ sports programs.
The school officials and council members at the meeting agreed Walker High’s current buildings are outdated when compared to others in the area.
Council member Gary Cowen asked Sparkman if the board of education has looked at state or federal grants.
Sparkman said to his knowledge there are no state or federal grants that would help pay for the project, and the school district would likely not obtain grants from national non-profits like the Gates Foundation.
Sparkman said school districts typically fund such building projects through the issue of bonds.
The one-cent tax hike, which will pay for the annual payment on the bond issue, could be in place for about 20 years.
Council member Jennifer Smith asked Sparkman what would happen to the old high school. He said parts of the property might be of interest to Bevill State Community College or the City of Jasper. He added that school officials might want to keep parts of the property, too.
“Whatever happens, that facility will be well kept and well used,” Sparkman said.
Cowen also asked Sparkman if a significant amount of money could be saved by keeping the existing athletic facilities at Walker High until further funding becomes available.
Sparkman said that when one looks at the expenses of remodeling the existing ball fields and athletic buildings, it doesn’t save a great deal of money compared to the overall building project.
The council agreed to meet for another work session at 3:30 p.m. next Thursday to hear a more in-depth presentation about the project.