MUSCLE SHOALS — The Muscle Shoals City Council has been asked to split debt payments on a $10 million bond sought by the city’s board of education.
City Councilman Joe Pampinto presented a three-part plan for facilities upgrades in Muscle Shoals schools and got verbal support from the remainder of the council to contribute up to $200,000 annually toward the bond service. The board of education anticipates paying $305,000 annually toward the debt.
The council will still have to vote on the action in an open meeting.
“Academics continue to be the top priority, but we have some facilities that are in need of upgrades,” Pampinto said. “Some buildings have had facelifts, but now, we are looking at structural issues in some places.”
Council President Jim Holland noted a strong school district is an asset for business and industry recruitment and community growth.
“I understand what our school system does for our community,” Holland said. “I’m fine with helping them make the payment.”
The capital improvement plan presented to the council Tuesday night includes construction of a new center for technology, athletics upgrades and additional safety measures at all schools in the district.
“We’ve always had a good relationship with the city,” Muscle Shoals schools Superintendent Jeff Wooten said. “We appreciate that they have always been supportive of us.”
Pampinto said if the City Council approves the partnership, which is expected, it is important the school district be methodical in implementing the capital improvement plan.
“We’ve made it clear that it would be difficult for the council to do anything else,” Pampinto said. “We have got to get it right.”
In December, the school board approved the construction of the $5.9 million center for technology to house eight career tech programs. The school board plans to use $3 million from its capital reserves and another $2.9 million from the bond to finance the project. Ground-breaking on the center is Friday and construction is expected take about one year.
Another $5.1 million is expected to be dedicated to construction and upgrades to the district’s athletics facilities. The plan calls for the construction of a 24,000-square-foot indoor practice facility with 35-yard turf field, a weight-training room and office space for coaches.
Muscle Shoals High School Principal Brian Lindsay, who led a committee charged with developing a master plan for athletics facilities, said the practice facility will be available for all sports, not just football.
“I know coach (Scott) Basden well enough to know that the football team is going to be outside practicing whenever possible,” Lindsay said. “Football won’t be the only program that is going to benefit.”
The practice facility will be built at the south end of the football stadium.
In addition to the indoor practice facility, athletics plans include installing artificial turf on the football field, new dressing rooms for spring sports and renovations to the stadium, bathrooms and pressbox.
The field was resodded about three years ago, but Lindsay said it has been an ongoing struggle to keep the grass in playing shape.
Lindsay said the athletic projects will be bid together, but it hasn’t been determined when that will be. Lindsay said he doesn’t want construction or demolition to interrupt spring sports.
The safety upgrades could include upgraded doors and locks or camera improvements, but Wooten said the exact changes to the security plan won’t be determined until after they receive a report from a school safety expert who has been working with the district.
“We wanted to do something that could impact every student and teacher in the system,” Wooten said. “Students and teachers need to feel safe before they can do their best.”
Wooten said it is unclear when the bond process will be complete.
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.