The Bulloch County Board of Education has agreed to buy 21 acres beside the Southeast Bulloch Middle School campus to allow the creation of a larger athletic complex for the school than was originally announced last summer.
At the end of Thursday evening’s regular meeting, the board went into closed session for discussion of personnel and real estate decisions. Returning to open session, the board first approved the employment actions. Then, on a recommendation from Superintendent Charles Wilson, a motion by District 3 member Stuart Tedders and a second by District 4’s April Newkirk, the board voted 8-0 to accept the land purchase contract at a total price of $262,500, which is $12,500 an acre.
The sellers are siblings Michael McElveen and Pamela McElveen Duda.
“We’re very appreciative of the fact that they were willing to do that,” Wilson said after the meeting. “I think they recognized the impact on the community. … Two of the middle schools had these plans laid out within existing property, and we couldn’t lay that plan out for that (the current SEB Middle School) property, so now this will allow us to move forward.”
Without the added land, only a comparatively “cramped little plan” for athletic facilities would fit on SEB Middle’s campus, he said.
An aerial photo in the Bulloch County Tax Assessors database shows the newly acquired tract as an open field bordered by trees where it meets the current campus and partially fronting on Brooklet-Denmark Road. The assessors’ info available online showed the 2018 valuation for taxes as $51,966, with the site classed as conservation-use agricultural and timber land.
3 schools’ plans
Last August, school system Chief Operations Officer Paul Webb and architects revealed plans for athletic facilities at all three stand-alone Bulloch County middle schools.
But while the Langston Chapel Middle School and William James Middle School athletic complexes would each include a regulation football and soccer field, two baseball and two softball fields and multiple tennis courts, the initial plan for Southeast Bulloch Middle was much more limited. It included one competition baseball field, one competition softball field, two rectangular practice fields, a new entry drive and a concession and restrooms building.
As then proposed, the Southeast Bulloch project had an estimated cost of $1.77 million, with no second phase.
Meanwhile, the Langston Chapel athletic facilities carried a $3.11 million estimate and the William James facilities a $4.18 million projected price tag, in each case for a first phase that did not include all of the master plan features.
New SEBMS plan
With the added land, a new plan is proposed for Southeast Bulloch Middle School, Hayley Greene, the school system’s public relations specialist, confirmed Friday after talking to Webb.
“This plan expands what was originally proposed for SEBMS and makes it comparable to what will be done at WJMS and LCMS,” Greene wrote in an email.
First-phase features will now include a soccer and football competition field built to National Federation of State High School Associations standards. Nearby, one competition and one practice baseball field and one competition and one practice softball field will form a cluster of four fields with a shelter in the middle. In addition to restrooms and concessions, there will be a new entry drive and a first-phase parking expansion, according to a list Greene provided.
When funded, a second phase would add an eight-lane, 400-meter track, a batting tunnel, a rectangular practice field, a storage building, a throwing field for track-and-field, and a second parking expansion.
Webb is slated to meet with the board-approved architect for the middle school athletic projects next week to discuss cost estimates for the expanded SEBMS project. He expects the costs to now be comparable to the WJMS and LCMS projects, Greene relayed.
In August, the combined, rough cost projections for the first phase of athletic facilities at the three stand-alone middle schools totaled $9 million. The work will be funded by the current fourth, five-year installment of Bulloch County’s voter-approved Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or E-SPLOST.
Webb also announced in August that the Statesboro-Bulloch Parks and Recreation Department would help provide programming at those three schools and at Portal Middle High School. After-school leagues for their students and evening Recreation Department use for youth and adult sports were suggested.
Of course, the schools would use the fields and courts for physical education during the school day.
Portal Middle High School identified no middle school athletic facility needs to the E-SPLOST committee for the current round of funding, Greene said. But in the previous round of E-SPLOST, Portal Middle High received $1.1 million worth of athletic facility improvements that were ranked first, second, third and 10th among the school system’s top 10 priorities, including a new fieldhouse, new bathrooms and a concession stand at the football field, bathrooms for the baseball field and handicapped accessibility improvements throughout the school’s athletic complex.
The next prioritized E-SPLOST project at Portal Middle High is the school’s 10,151-square foot, $647,777 agricultural education livestock barn, set for construction beginning Monday.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.