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Bid for Portal school $1.5M over budget
School official believes plans for gymnasium will move forward; says funds will be secured
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    The lowest bid received for the new Portal Middle/High School construction project came in about $1.5 million over budget, but Bulloch County Assistant Superintendent Charles Wilson believes the school system will find a way to secure the extra cash in order to include a gymnasium in the construction.
    Whether or not the construction project would include a gymnasium depended upon whether bids including the gym were acceptable and feasible, Wilson said in earlier interviews. During a public hearing at the current Portal Middle/High School several months ago, Wilson was met with passionate community members demanding the school construction be equal to projects at Southeast Bulloch High and Statesboro High schools.
    The budget for the Portal school construction is $10.4 million, he said. The lowest bid for the projects, to include construction of a new gym, was submitted by Pope Construction of Statesboro for $11,807,000, he said.
    While school officials have not yet met to discuss the issue, Wilson said he expects a recommendation will be made to move ahead with construction including a new gym.
    In addition to being what the community appears to want, based upon comments at the public hearing last fall, including a gym in the upcoming construction will be “easier and less expensive” than waiting to add a new gym at a later date, he said.
    “We haven’t made a decision on how to recommend” the project be handled, he said Thursday.
    Eliminating the gym from the proposed cost of construction would save about $65 per square foot, but if the gymnasium were to be added at a later date, as a separate project, it would end up being much more costly, Wilson said.
    Also, including the gym in the upcoming construction would be much easier than starting a separate project later, he said. “It will be a lot easier for us to go ahead and do it. The best way would be to go ahead with the whole bid.”
    The recommendation and subsequent decision “could be contingent upon the SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) referendum” coming up in March, he said.
    The referendum seeks to continue a one-cent sales tax where a penny each dollar collected in Bulloch County goes toward school projects. It would not be an increase of the county’s seven percent sales tax, but a continuance of  the current tax, he said.
    The Bulloch County School Board of Education meets Feb. 12., Wilson said. “We will make a recommendation at that point.”
    Plans for the Portal Middle/High School construction include having the newer middle school wings that were built just a few years ago incorporated into the new construction.
    The school property will expand, as a number of homes and a portion of a street have been demolished and will become part of the campus.
    Construction on  the new school is expected to be completed by summer of 2010, he said. “We will demolish the old part (of the school) after the move-in, and will evaluate the old gym at that time.” The old gym could be kept as  a practice gymnasium, Wilson said in earlier interviews.
    The school will be able to accommodate 600 students. Currently, it holds about 470.
    Portal Middle/High School Principal Jimmy Parrish said last fall he feels the new school “will benefit the community. It’s  a win-win situation.”
    Only three high school classes will be displaced during the construction, and will be housed in mobile units until the construction is complete, Wilson said.

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