Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Oconee County School Board Approves Bid For Construction Of Third Middle School

***Low Bid Approved From Three Submitted***

The Oconee County Board of Education decided on Monday to award a $34.4 million contract to Bowen and Watson Construction Company of Toccoa for construction of a third middle school next door to Dove Creek Elementary School in the far northwest of the county.

The estimated total cost of the project is $39.6 million, including furnishing and technology.

Internal documents Oconee County School prepared in advance of the Education Local Option Sales Tax referendum approved by voters in March had estimated the total cost at $36.6 million.

The new school will be funded by revenue from the 1 percent sales tax and general fund monies. The Georgia Department of Education has agreed to contribute $5.4 million in state funds for the new middle school.

The new middle school will be a 156,000-square-foot, two-story, steel-frame building on the 56 acres owned by Oconee County Schools on Hog Mountain Road north of U.S. 78.

Construction is to be completed by May 31, 2023.

In other action on Monday, the Board voted to spend $51,530 to purchase 125 new projectors to replace existing projectors.

This purchase will be funded by Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds provided by Congress to address the impact that COVID-19 has had on elementary and secondary schools across the nation.

Combined Agendas

The meeting on Monday, officially a Regular Meeting of the Board, combined the agendas of the usual Work Session and of the usual Regular Meeting. It is the only scheduled meeting of the Board in December.

Toole Addressing Board Members
Kim Argo, Tim Burgess, Michael Ransom (L-R)

Brock Toole, director of Operations, at the end of his Operations Report, told the Board on Monday it was Superintendent Jason Branch’s recommendation that the Board approve the bid of Bowen and Watson Construction Company for the third middle school.

No one from the Board asked any questions.

Documents Toole had provided before the meeting showed Bowen and Watson as the low of three bidders.

McKnight Construction Company of Augusta and R.K. Redding Construction of Bremen submitted bids of $34.7 million and $36.2 million respectively.

Construction Update

No details of the work proposed by Bowen and Watson were discussed at the meeting on Monday.

Documents filed with the application for the $5.4 million in state funds show the capacity of the school has been set at 1,000 students.

The application lists 17 classrooms, seven science labs, and eight other labs or rooms at the new middle school.

Fred Ricketson, director of facilities for Oconee County Schools, as part of the Operations Report, updated the Board on construction of classroom additions at both Colham Ferry Elementary School and High Shoals Elementary School.

Ricketson said construction work at Colham Ferry is about 50 percent completed and that footings and foundation walls are complete at High Shoals Elementary School.

Other Reports

Claire Buck, chief academic officer, told the Board in her Teaching and Learning Report that Oconee County Schools had issued a request for proposals for the 125 projectors in October.

Buck With Board Members Argo,
Burgess, Ransom (L-R)

She said that the low bidder for the 125 projectors had met all of the specifications in the request and it was the superintendent’s recommendation that the low bid be accepted.

Buck did not identify the bidder, but documents she provided showed Audio Visual Innovations of Tampa as the low bidder with a bid of $51,530.

The other bidders were CCS Presentation Systems of Norcross, with a bid of $53,055, and Howard Technology of Ellisville, Miss., with a bid of $56,000.

“These projectors will be funded through ESSER funds,” Buck told the Board.

Liz Harlow, chief financial officer for Oconee County Schools, as part of her business services report, indicated that the system has spent or encumbered by the end of November only $1.4 million of the $3.2 million in ESSER funds allocated to Oconee County Schools and budgeted for the current fiscal year.

The Board did not ask questions of Buck regarding the projectors or of Harlow regarding ESSER fund spending.

Other Action

The Board approved both the bid for the new middle school and the bid for the projectors during the action section at the end of the meeting on Monday.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Board inducted former Board Chair Tom Odom to the Oconee County School Hall of Fame.

Odom, who joined Oconee County Schools in 1991 as an assistant principal at Oconee County Middle School after working in both the Clarke and Barrow County school systems, stepped down as Board chair at the end of August, citing health reasons.

A series of speakers praised Odom in an 11-minute tribute, ending when Odom came to the podium to speak.

No citizens had signed up to speak to the Board during the designated comment section at the end of the meeting.


The video below is the one recorded by Oconee County Schools from the meeting on Monday.

The still images used above are screen shots from the video.

The recognition of Odom begins at 0:56 in the video.

The video has been edited, for some reason, to eliminate the comments Odom made when he responded to the tributes given to him and his work.

A picture of Odom with the award is placed at 12:38 in the video instead of those comments.

Buck discussed the request for proposals for the projectors at 33:06 in the video.

Toole began his brief presentation of the bids for the new middle school at 38:30 in the video.

Even though the videos are for public consumption and recorded by school officials, Oconee County Schools has placed restrictions on how they can be shared, as the screen below indicates.

Simply check Watch on YouTube to see the video.

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