Is hidden agenda why board overpaid for new school site?
March 26, 2014 01:21 AM | 2714 views | 13 13 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DEAR EDITOR:

On Feb. 3, the Cobb County Board of Education voted unanimously to purchase 35 acres of property along Terrell Mill road for the relocation of Brumby Elementary school. The $9.4 million price tag for this land is being paid for with our tax dollars via SPLOST IV.

No one disagrees with the need to improve Brumby. The school is significantly overcrowded, relying on trailers to accommodate extra children. However, we deserve to know our tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Now the math. The school board’s plan, as outlined by Post 6 school board representative Scott Sweeney, involves buying 35 acres. The required acreage to build a school of this size is 15 acres. The school board has agreed to pay $9.4 million, which works out to roughly $269,000 per acre, or approximately $4 million for 15 acres.

So, why has the school board agreed to overpay by $5.4 million? Our children are missing weeks of school due to furlough days. We can’t pay our teachers, but we can buy extra property we don’t need?

Surely the school board has a plan for that extra 20 acres they’re buying. When asked, Mr. Sweeney declined to answer questions about plans for the additional 20 acres, stating he is “unable to discuss during due diligence.”

Not coincidentally, it takes 20 acres to build a middle school, and East Cobb Middle is next on the list of SPLOST projects. Common sense leads one to conclude that the school board plans to rebuild East Cobb Middle on the same property along with Brumby Elementary. Why the secrecy?

Perhaps because the school board doesn’t want the residents of East Cobb to know what is about to hit them. The Terrell Mill property is located on a major commuter thoroughfare that funnels traffic to I-75. Traffic is extremely heavy in the morning and early evening. The DOT re-engineered this stretch of road only a few years ago to accommodate heavy use.

The State of Georgia Guideline for Educational Facility Site Selection recommends any new school site be accessible from two different roads. However, this property has only one access point, which will further snarl traffic once hundreds of additional cars and buses are added twice daily.

If you think traffic will be bad with one school, now picture a 25 mph school zone running from 7:20 a.m.-7:50 a.m. for the elementary school and again from 8:15 a.m.-8:45 a.m. for the middle school, all colliding with morning rush hour traffic.

Why not look into more fiscally responsible solutions, like expanding Brumby at its current location? It’s a lot cheaper to remodel than rebuild. There are several acres of vacant property adjacent to the current school which can be purchased for far less than $9.4 million, which would leave additional money to improve the school. Or, look for the right size parcel of land, i.e., 15 acres.

If local officials can find 60 acres to build a baseball stadium, surely they can find 15 acres to build an elementary school.

If it was your checkbook, would you spend twice as much as you need?

Well, it is your checkbook, and the school board has the pen.

Jennifer Ferrara

east Cobb

Comments
(13)
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@ Ms. Ferrara
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March 29, 2014
Overpaid ??? Are you suggesting that the district overpaid for the land, or that they didn't get the land they purchased?

Residential land in that area is appraised by the Cobb tax assessors office at roughly $250,000 per acre. Marketable value is usually higher than the county's assessment so the district's price paid seems reasonable.

Your fuzzy math says they overpaid by $5,400,000.

If that were to be the case, then in your mind the district should only have paid $114,000 per acre.

Don't think the seller would have been interested in that deal - Do you?

And by the way, SPLOST dollars used to purchase the land can't be used to pay teachers or reduce furlough days. You also said that there were "weeks" of furlough days. Try 5.

It's hard to believe the premise of your argument when your facts are quite inaccurate.
anonymous
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March 31, 2014
RE: And by the way, SPLOST dollars used to purchase the land can't be used to pay teachers or reduce furlough days. --

Every time the chamber lovin' tax-a-holic skunks throw that line out, they should be required to punch themselves in the mouth.

The bottom line is that it is money that comes out of the pockets of the taxpayers. It just won't go to the "needs" in Cobb county...but, will instead be applied to those all important "wants".

YES. We will have marble top hot dog stands at our astro-turfed school stadiums. NO. Teachers will be not avoid furloughs.

Tony Cain
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March 27, 2014
Beautiful letter, Jennifer. Well-written, clear, precise. Thank you. Now you understand why you should never, never, never vote for a SPLOST for ANYTHING.
@ Tony Cain
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March 30, 2014
It seems your preference would be to keep students in trailers. There's 17 alone at Brumby.

Not so long ago, there were easily more than 600 trailers throughout Cobb and now that number is less than 100.

Are you stubborn enough to not support any capital improvement programs? For Schools? For roads? For Public Safety?

There's a solid reason SPLOST has been supported, with the exception of the ill-conceived regional transportation SPLOST.
Besty Wallen
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March 27, 2014
How do you know it is cheaper to remodel than rebuild? Have you quoted it out? As for traffic, if the helicopter parents would let little Susie ride the bus you wouldn;t have the cars all over. Perhaps the plan it to have long enough driveways to get traffic off the road? I see some black helicopters circling around here, too. Hope they do not build a school!
Tony Cain
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March 27, 2014
Oh, please. Black helicopters? Come on. Jennifer's letter is one of the best ever in the MDJ. It is superb, which is why I suspect it bothers you folks so much.
Times a changin
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March 27, 2014
I find it interesting that parents in this area would be opposed to a new middle school. Perhaps they are afraid of what a redistricting might do to their handcrafted current situation. The fact is, east Cobb is changing. Being in a million dollar neighborhood is no guarantee that your kids won't have to go to school with "those" kids from the Terrell Mill/Powers Ferry area. You all have lived in your bubble for so long and not paid attention to higher administration in the county, you have created this. As to the school being on a busy thoroughfare, south and west Cobb schools are almost ALL on busy commuter streets. You're going to have to do better than that argument to make a case.
Jennifer Ferrara
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March 27, 2014
Times a changin – Your comment is classist and offensive. While you make ill-informed presumptions about my “bubble,” you should know I don’t live in a million dollar neighborhood and we are in the East Cobb Middle School district. So, you're going to have to do better than that to make a case.

Jennifer Ferrara

caster129
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March 27, 2014
I find it interesting you would focus on perceived demographic prejudice as opposed to the more obvious traffic and safety situation this will most definitely create. Get your mind out of the discrimination gutter. As stated there is only one entrance from a thoroughfare that is unable to handle morning and afternoon commuter traffic. Why not focus on this and the fact no one, until recently, has been truthful as to the fact there are two facilities not one on the table.
skeptic 8
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March 26, 2014
Please voters of cobb county do your homework on Sweeney as his re-election comes up.
anonymous
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March 26, 2014
...exactly - because "those" kids do not deserve a new school
Annoyed in East Cobb
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March 27, 2014
Hey anonymous, way to jump on the bandwagon. Those kids are our kids.
what has happened?
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March 26, 2014
Why is it that so many of us no longer feel we can trust anyone, on any level, of our government, either local or national? Is it because our trust has been abused, time and time again? I think Cobb citizens are going to be for an unpleasant shock when all is finally revealed.
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