Jasper City Schools Superintendent Robert Sparkman and officials with Birmingham-based Lathan Associates Architects shared an animated rendering of the outside of the proposed Walker High facilities as well as a Powerpoint presentation of basic floor plans for the 285,000-square foot building that would house academic classrooms, a competition gym, a practice gym and a 1,500-seat performing arts center.
“Now is the time,” Sparkman said. “This project is timely, and we need to get it accomplished.”
To fund the more than $61 million project, Sparkman is requesting the city raise its sales tax by one cent, which would pay for the annual payment on the bond issue and could be in place for about 20 years.
“We are one of the few cities our size still at an 8 percent sales tax,” Sparkman said. “We would not be surpassing other people. We would just be getting where others are.”
Sparkman said Jasper City Schools currently operate using a 5.5 mills ad valorem tax and a .5 percent sales tax.
“The citizens of Jasper get a great value as far as education,” he said. “We are not searching for operational funds. We are always careful with the funds we are provided by the city. To upgrade our facilities to this degree, there is no other way than to do the 1-cent sales tax hike.”
The new school facility would include the main building as well as two practice fields (one for football and one for band), tennis courts, two baseball fields, two soccer fields and a new football stadium. The main building is estimated to cost $53 million and the athletic complex should cost around $6 million.
Mike Cordle and Beth Kennedy, teachers at Walker High School, spoke in favor of building a new school. Kennedy also provided members of the council with letters from some of her students.
Walker Principal Gary Boling said a new high school could have a major impact on the Jasper area.
“This is a great opportunity to make an impact on this community for decades,” he said.
Council members and Sparkman agreed a public forum should be held to allow citizens to see the same presentation that was given to the council. Council president Sandi Sudduth said she would coordinate the public forum.
“We will hold this quickly,” she said. “It is just a matter of setting it all up. We want the public to be able to see these drawings and know what we are talking about.”
Once it is scheduled, the time and date of the forum will be announced in the Daily Mountain Eagle.