After months of planning and negotiations, major projects for both Lumpkin County government and Lumpkin County Schools are finally gaining the clearance to begin.
And they’re all linked to the property at 216 Pinetree Way, which has been vacant for years after what used to be the Mohawk plant was demolished.
The dominoes began to fall when the Lumpkin County Board of Education voted to purchase 26 acres where the factory once stood to be developed into a new elementary school during the last school board meeting on Oct. 12. That deal closed on Friday afternoon, with the school system making the purchase for $3 million from Mike and Lynn Cottrell, who purchased the 55-acre property from Mark Sosebee in 2012.
“The new school will replace Lumpkin County Elementary School which is 53 years old,” Superintendent Dr. Rob Brown told The Nugget.
However that isn’t all that’s planned for the site as a video published on YouTube Monday by LCSS Public Relations director Jason Lemley unveiled plans for an elaborate aquatic center that would also be located on the property. Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Dockery said he was as surprised as anyone to see the video go live Monday, as the plans, which the county had managed to keep quiet, were not yet finalized.
“They closed the land, to them I guess that was their big moment, so they released it,” Dockery said, “but really our big moment is now that they’ve closed the land, I need to go back to my board and say, the land’s there, here’s the agreement that they’re going to give us the land we’re going to have to some additional funding although we’ve all agreed conceptually, we’ve got to formalize this commitment and move forward with the design phase.”
Brown said the county and schools had agreed to deed over a portion of the property for the aquatic center, but that “the exact portion or amount of the property needed for the aquatic center has not yet been determined.”
The video touted architectural renderings of an expansive aquatic center named “Cottrell Aquatic Center” and showed off the potential design of the project. Dockery said that the county and school system worked together on producing the video.
“We collectively put a video together and we met several times to discuss the project,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any harm in them doing it and I certainly don’t sense that there’s any opposition with our board. We just need to make it official, but they needed to close the land before we moved forward.”
The Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners scheduled a special called meeting for Tuesday, Nov. 3 immediately after the regularly scheduled Work Session I “to discuss the aquatic center.”
“We voted to build a pool and then this opportunity came up so we need to formalize our commitment tomorrow night before anything would be official,” he said.
The board did exactly that on Tuesday evening, voting to amend the plans passed earlier in the year to fit the new aquatic center, changing how the project will be funded as well as the location of the project.
Brown said the agreement was about sharing cost and using taxpayer money efficiently.
“We are currently working with the county government to develop a site plan which will allow for shared parking and shared infrastructure costs. We hope to make this complex functional, serviceable, and something which our community can be proud of for many years to come,” he said. “...We are proud to have a strong working relationship with Stan Kelley, Chairman Dockery and all of our county commissioners and have established an intergovernmental agreement which works for both organizations to get started. We believe this partnership allows for the best use of both taxpayer dollars and private donations.”
OLD SCHOOL, NEW SCHOOL
The building of the new elementary school on the property, however, is finalized. But that doesn’t mean the switch or even the construction of the school will begin just yet.
“The earliest we can begin preparing the property for the school will be the spring of 2021 and estimate a two-year timeframe to build,” Brown said. “We anticipate the new school opening in the fall of 2023.”
Until then, Brown says the current Lumpkin County Elementary School is usable.
“The current school is still a functional building and should get us to the fall of 2023 with minor repairs, but it cannot sustain use by 550 students on a daily basis into the distant future.”
Brown said the new school is estimated to cost $17 to $18 million.
As for what will happen to the old school once the new school is completed, the future of the building is still undecided.
“The school board will decide how to repurpose the current school when the time comes,” Brown said.