“I’ve got the architect. I’ve got a two-story building, construction manager (which he will recommend to the school board Tuesday night). I just need some dirt to build on. We’re almost there,” Cooper said. “I finally took someone’s advice who said you can’t make this go faster than it will so you just have to relax.”
Chill pill taken, Cooper is hoping that all of the parcels for the new school can be acquired by the end of October and that serious grading activity can get under way before Thanksgiving.
The school system has acquired 20 separate parcels, spending a total of $987,611.85 for the property and another $121,500 to help the property owners with relocation expenses. The largest chunk of that money went to purchase the Watkins Auto Sales lot at Wimpee and East Main streets: $67,304 for the property, along with $100,000 for Watkins’ relocation expenses.
Cooper said he was optimistic that he would be able to complete all of the property acquisition, pending the Kerry Brown properties, within his original budget. He declined to detail that figure pending the outcome of negotiations, and probably condemnation proceedings, involving the Brown parcels.
All that stands in the way of work on the site is clearing title on a couple of pieces of property and obtaining several parcels owned by Brown, including the old Howell (Triangle) Grocery at the corner of East Main and South Broad streets. Brown actually owns five commercial lots, two houses and the triangle building.
“They made me that one ridiculous offer, and that’s all I’ve heard from them,” Brown said Friday. “They sent an appraiser over here about six weeks ago and said they would be coming back, but I haven’t heard anything from them. We’re just taking it one day at a time.”
Brown tried to relocate the old Central Park burger shop to the triangle property back in January of 2012, about the time it became apparent that the property was being earmarked for inclusion in the new Anna K. Davie campus. Hugh Bass, a master appraiser, is thought to have completed his analysis of Brown’s property.
“What I’ve learned is that eminent domain is about as slow as molasses on a winter day,” Cooper said with a sigh.
Much of the demolition work has been completed, however, there are several old houses on Wimpee Street that are still standing. Attorneys are working to get clear titles for the property before demolition can proceed on those buildings.
City Manager John Bennett indicated that condemnation proceedings may be required to obtain clear titles for several of those properties which are vacant but tied up in estates.
City crews are handling demolition work, and Cooper said that the take down costs have added up to approximately $40,000 thus far. Cooper said Bennett estimated the cost of additional demolition could be another $10,000 to $20,000. The school board will reimburse the city for the demolition costs.
“I would say right now we’re talking six, possibly eight weeks before we have these transactions completed,” Cooper said. “That puts us at the end of October, mid to end of October. Then if you built a school in ten months you’d be hard pressed to open it August 1, 2013, so I think now, realistically, you’re talking about January of 2014.”
Cooper said that a mid-year move is less desirable than an August move, but that decision will be left up to the Board of Education and whoever it chooses to succeed Cooper as superintendent.
New school building
Southern A&E, which has done much of the architectural work for the Rome City Schools in recent years, has completed all of the drawings for the new two-story Anna K. Davie Elementary School. Cooper sent out a request for proposals for construction manager-at-risk and got nine proposals back.
“I’ve done all the matrix work and I’ll have a recommendation for the board Tuesday night,” Cooper said. “It will clear because of the cost.”
Cooper did not provide any insight as to who submitted what was clearly the low bid.
Another issue that has yet to be resolved is the fate of a neighborhood store across East Main Street from the school property that sells alcohol.
Cooper said a portion of the application he had to turn in for site approval for the new Anna K. Davie campus involves proximity of a liquor store — Blue Box Beverages, 33 E. Main St. — directly across the street from the school property.
“Obviously you don’t want children walking up and down the sidewalks with somebody stumbling down the sidewalk with a brown bag of whatever,” Cooper said. “I gave my word and signed the papers that we were going in that direction to remove that liquor store.”
“We’re still in discussions with the state school board about that,” Bennett said. “If they would say we didn’t have to buy it, it would make negotiations with those guys a lot easier.”
Blue Box owner Vishal Patel, who has owned the shop since December of 2007, confirmed that he has had some preliminary discussions with Bennett but that nothing has been nailed down.
“We do have a proposal from them, we know what the price would be if we have to buy it,” Bennett said.
Officials may also have to address the beer package license at the Big H Food Store, 29 East Main St., adjacent to Blue Box Beverage. The licensee at Big H is Pankajkumar Patel. Patel has held the beer package license for 13 years.