Board to consider school projects

The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will consider several repair and improvement projects at area schools at its meeting today.

These requests for approval include a funding-transfer request for Hickory Career and Arts Magnet High School (HCAM), a classroom-addition project at Webb A. Murray Elementary School and a cafeteria renovation at St. Stephens High School.

Funding for school projects and the debt associated with those projects comes from various sources in the school systems, such as federal stimulus dollars and lottery funding.

Catawba County applied in 2009 and 2010 for allocation of Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCB), which were available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The county received more than $21.5 million to build Newton-Conover Middle School and fund additions to Arndt Middle School.

Catawba County was notified in 2010 of additional QSCB funds, and it received $6.3 million in funding for a classroom-expansion project at Webb A. Murray Elementary School. That $4.6-million project was planned for the next four-year construction cycle and includes the addition of 16 classrooms, The O-N-E reported in December.

Catawba County Schools Board of Education chose not to add two additional classrooms to the school. Money remaining from the Murray project will fund the SSHS cafeteria renovation, which upgrades the school's kitchen and adds seats to its lunchroom.

"Rather than send those back, we planned on going to the next project," said Steven G. Demiter, CCS assistant superintendent of operations.

If commissioners give CCS the go-ahead, Demiter said the CCS Board of Education will bid out the SSHS project and hopes to approve bids in the coming month.

Commissioners will also consider a funding transfer at Hickory's newest high school. HCAM needs an asbestos abatement and design project completed at its facility, formerly Catawba Valley High School on Eighth Avenue NE in Hickory.

The improvement project requires commissioners to transfer $140,000 remaining from a roof-replacement project at the school. According to the Catawba County Board of Commissioners meeting agenda, the asbestos project costs $85,000 plus an additional $5,000 for air monitoring throughout the abatement process. The $5,000 for air monitoring will come from the maintenance budget.

Design costs for HCAM are $61,200. All, but $1,200 of that project, will come from the commissioners' transfer, if approved. The remaining costs will come from per capita or maintenance funds.

This is HCAM's first year in session, and the school focuses on technical- and career-center academies for students interested in criminal justice, cosmetology, culinary arts, acting, firefighting and other careers.

To pay off debt incurred during school construction projects, Catawba County uses North Carolina Education Lottery funding for the equivalent of one cent on the property tax, or $1.5 million, according to the board meeting agenda.

For fiscal year 2009-10, the county received more than $3 million in funding from the lottery to be distributed among the county's three school systems.

CCS received $2.1 million; Newton-Conover City Schools received about $530,000; and Hickory Public Schools received about $847,000.

Commissioners typically meet the first and third Mondays of every month, but this month's Jan. 17 meeting was moved to Tuesday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.