Barbara Harrington

Senior Writer

Jimmy Dahlem, Monroe County superintendent of education, came before the board of supervisors at the November 9 meeting to discuss property.

Three months ago, he said, he came to the board to offer them property that they apparently already owned. One of these is the Becker School campus. The community center next to the school is being used as a voting precinct. The board had discussed previously erecting a fence to separate it from the school, after the school district relinquished that part to the supervisors for county use. The Becker School was closed at the end of the last school year and the campus was reopened this fall as an Advanced Learning Center.

At the November 9 meeting, Dahlem suggested there is a possibility of expanding the learning center and asked about maybe the school district securing land at the Monroe County Airport site to build and expand the center. He said they would like to start with 15 acres, and maybe acquire more if an expansion is needed.

Board president Billy Kirkpatrick said the county had someone at Becker that morning looking at moving the line over 15 feet to provide more parking space. With 1,400 voters at that precinct, he said they want to keep traffic from the school and the voting separate. The property for the voting precinct is about three-quarters of an acre. Dahlem said the campus totals about 10 acres.

District 1 supervisor Randle Gray said this is a "new subject for us to even think about." Gray said he has concerns as far as the county's assuming ownership of the school. "I have concerns about the maintenance, upkeep and future use of the building by the county," he said. "There are probably some possibilities to explore."

Wilchie Clay, District 4 supervisor, said, "If we decide to take the property, we have to have something to use it for. I would hate to see it sold as a warehouse. That would deteriorate the property value in the community. The building is not good for industry. The ceilings are too low. I'm not opposed to what you're trying to do. I support education 100 percent. It's the only way to survive, education. We need to put some thought into it."

District 3 supervisor Chip Chism said the only problem he has with Dahlem's proposal is that they moved the Becker School out and spent money on the campus. "If we swap," he said, "it's going to raise taxes."

County administrator Sonny Clay said there is an issue with a lagoon at the airport property that will "require a lot of work," and if the property swap is made, "the school would have to share that cost" (around $70,000).

Sykes Lagrone, District 5 supervisor, suggested the board take this matter under advisement for further discussion. Dahlem said he could put together some figures and get back with them.

Kirkpatrick said, "I don't think we're ready to give you an answer." He also said if that three-quarters of an acre is going to cause the school district to build a new school, the county could give that back and get a new community center.

In other business:

-The board accepted the low bid from Holloway Tower and Antenna in Smithville for the construction of a 120-foot tower at the Monroe County Airport. The cost is $27,728. Sonny Clay said they won't be ready for installation until the new building is completed.

- Board attorney John Creekmore said he had reviewed the contract from Southland Construction for the building of the new 911 facility. He said it provides completion in not later than 180 days. Creekmore also told the board Clay had suggested the establishment of an ordinance against unauthorized dumping and littering, setting up fines for that. He gave it to the supervisors for their review. This will be dealt with at the next meeting.

The board of supervisors will meet again on November 22 at 10 a.m. in the chancery building in Aberdeen.

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