NCSS buys 81 acres for new school

COVINGTON -- The Newton County School System announced Tuesday that it has closed on the purchase of more than 80 acres of land for construction of a new elementary school. The purchase price of the land is $1.1 million.

Deputy Superintendent Dennis Carpenter announced during his operations report at the Newton County Board of Education meeting that the system closed Nov. 5 on 80.97 acres of land in the northwest corner of the county near the intersection of Airport Road and Ga. Highway 142.

The site had been a topic of discussion between the school board and the city of Covington -- the City Council agreed in April to fund $125,000 for a pump station and force main to provide sewer to the site, estimated to cost between $440,000 and $500,000 for the entire project.

Then earlier this month, the school board approved a revision to a contract for the pump station and line with the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority. School board member Johnny Smith voted against the revision.

"In July, the board approved the original agreement," NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley said. "That did not include provisions for cost overruns due to rock in the area."

As part of the contract, the WASA would engineer, construct, operate, maintain and repair a sewer pump station and line to existing sewer in Covington. The WASA will contribute $125,000 to the project, and Covington will contribute $125,000 in the form of credits toward the purchase of sewer capacity. The Industrial Development Authority will give a reimbursement to the BOE of $179,650 toward the cost of the pump and line construction. WASA will reserve 29,840 gallons per day of wastewater treatment capacity to serve the site for a period of 10 years; after that, unused capacity will be surrendered to WASA.

Carpenter said the total land purchase price was $1,133,580, or $14,000 per acre.

The school system intends to construct a new elementary school at the location beginning next year.

"It is anticipated that we will be ready to let a contract on this school in the spring of 2010," Carpenter said. "Our current plans are to have the school open for the start of the 2011-12 school year."

He said the school would be a design similar to recently constructed elementary schools South Salem and Live Oak, which are multi-level facilities that can accommodate up to 1,500 students.

Other land at the site could be used to build even more system facilities in the future, Carpenter said.

NCSS is made up of 24 schools -- 13 elementary schools, four middle schools, three high schools, two parent-involvement theme schools, one alternative school and one charter school.

Staff Reporter Crystal Tatum contributed to this article.