BOE: Golf course best land

Published 3:50 am Wednesday, July 25, 2007

By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
Dogwood Hills is the best spot to locate a new middle school, Superintendent Lynn Smith and board of education President Stephanie Walker said Tuesday.
But they and other Brewton City Schools officials are willing to wait for all information to make the best decision possible, Smith and Walker said.
In recent weeks golfers who use Dogwood Hills regularly have been vocal about the opposition to the school board's proposal to buy the property and use a portion of the golf course to build a new middle school.
One point of contention has been whether the remaining property could be reconfigured into a usable nine-hole golf course.
Smith said the school board would like to see the city hire an impartial, outside golf professional to review the property and make a recommendation about reconfiguring the course.
The school board has not made a formal offer to buy Dogwood Hills, but Smith said he has told Mayor Ted Jennings that the school system would likely offer about $2.5 million for the property, including the golf course, clubhouse, playground and pool. The school board would then lease the portions of property it does not use back to the city for a nominal fee under a long-term agreement.
The city could use the money from the purchase of the property to help reconfigure the golf course, Smith said.
Walker and Smith said they believe the Dogwood Hills property is best for a variety of reasons, including the current state of the property and the availability of other land in the city limits.
Smith said the board needs to look into the future to anticipate what the school system might need to accommodate decades from now.
That means having enough property for two schools many years in the future, although current plans call just for one school, he said.
The Dogwood Hills property also does not need much grading, Walker said.
Other pieces of property - including some suggested by people who are against the Dogwood Hills proposal - have steep elevations that would pose obstacles, she said.
The school board's purchase of Dogwood Hills - a piece of property Wal-Mart had considered before choosing another U.S. 31 location - would likely keep commercial interest in the property at bay, Smith said.
Smith and Walker also addressed another concern about building a school at the site - traffic.
Because the middle school would be built on the back part of the property, along the Old Castleberry Road side, traffic could be routed from Old Castleberry Road, Walker said.
Plans are already under way to straighten the road where it meets U.S. 31, because of the construction of the Wal-Mart Supercenter.
Walker said part of Old Castleberry Road could also be three-laned to accommodate the extra cars.
Smith said about 50 middle school students currently use busses to get to school; he expects that number at least to quadruple if the school moves to Dogwood Hills.
Walker and Smith emphasized that while the amount of time it is taking to make a decision on the middle school is frustrating, they are willing to wait to make the best decision.

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