Valley working to save money on new high school

Published 9:00 am Saturday, February 24, 2024

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VALLEY — The city of Valley is working to save the Chambers County School District money as the new Chambers County High School is built.

Valley Mayor Leonard Riley said the city could save CCSD a total of $5 million through various work the city can complete that won’t be contracted out.

“It’s the only site in Chambers County that could save the Board of Education $5 million,” Riley said at Thursday evening’s work session.

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The city could save the school system an estimated $2.2 million by doing some of the initial site preparation with its employees and equipment. The city of Valley can do that work for around $800,000 while it might a private contractor might charge more than $3 million.

Since the city of Valley donated the land, the school district can also save an estimated $2 million by not having to purchase the 74-acre site the school will be built on. Valley will also be making significant contributions in the way of needed road improvements, such as deceleration and turn lanes off Fairfax Bypass, and a loop road for buses on the back side of the school site.

Council Member Jim Jones said he was tickled to death that Chambers County High is being built in Valley, but he did have some concerns with its costs. They are estimated to be in the $90 million range, but construction costs have been rising in recent years.

Riley, who served for 20 years as the county superintendent, said he had an hour-and-a-half-long meeting with architects and engineers on Thursday to discuss ways the city can help in the project.

It’s likely that 30-year bonds will be floated to cover Phase I, but additional bonds will have to be floated as well. 

“We can earmark our expenses for the school,” Riley said. “We can do the rough grading to get the work going. The seven-cent fuel tax and the state improvement fund should help them a lot.”

An estimated 8,000 yards of dirt has been hauled to the site. A large amount of needed rock has gone there as well.

The city has already cleared an adjacent site it has purchased behind Valley Haven School. 

On another subject, Riley said that work had slowed down on the Four Star Auto Auction site but had picked up this week. The new business will be located off Four Star Drive next to Four Star Freightliner. It will be easily seen from I-85.

The Public Works Department’s bulldozer was recently damaged. It will cost an estimated $80,000 to repair. The city could purchase a new Komatsu with a five-year warranty for $336,000.

Council Member Jim Clark said that he’d like to see some clean up work taking place on the Shawmut Mill site. He said it’s become overgrown, and people are complaining about it.

Jim Jones said that he’d like for the city’s riverfront property to remain in its natural state. Jones added that he was worried about the welfare of animals in the city. 

“I get more complaints about animals than anything else,” he said. “We have a tethering law now, and some people out there are mistreating their animals. I think it should reach a point where people who have abused their animals are no longer allowed to keep them.”

Council Member Jim Gilson said he’d recently received a call from a woman who wanted to know if she could keep a turkey in a cage. 

“I told her I didn’t know,” he said. “I told her that she had better check with the game warden on that.”

City Clerk/Treasurer Cathy Snowden reported on the financials for the first quarter of the 2023-24 fiscal year, which started on Oct. 1. Taxes are still coming in at a very good rate. 

“We are growing,” Riley said. “When I first became mayor in 2012, the city was bringing in around $5.3 million a year in sales taxes. We had $9.5 million this past year.”

That means more money for street paving and other infrastructure needs.

Snowden said that every city department was in its budget in the previous year. 

“We added to our bottom line in 2023, and we are on pace to do it again this year,” Riley said.

There are always unanticipated needs as the year progresses. This is running at a little more than $60,000. These expenses include replacing some air conditioning units at Valley Community Center.

Riley said he was surprised by the $300,000 of tax revenue that was generated in the city’s police jurisdiction. 

There are some budgeted expenses that have yet to be received. Valley Police Department and Public Works will be getting new vehicles. Police Chief Mike Reynolds told the council his department will be leasing new patrol cars. They will be sent as soon as a lease agreement is signed.

Riley said that Phase I of the city’s street paving schedule had been completed and that Phase II was nearing completion. Some work needs to be done on Whitesmill Road. East Alabama has work to do there before the paving can be done.

The council will meet in a regular session at 6 p.m. EST on Monday.