The new members of the Macon County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday night to authorize County Manager Derek Roland to enter into contract negotiations with LS3P Architects to complete design work for middle school renovations at Highlands School.
Macon County Commissioner Vice-Chairman Josh Young noted that the school board had included the need for renovations to the middle school including roof repairs, new windows, flooring upgrades, and repairs to the HVAC system in their capitol improvement plan. With funding available through the North Carolina Education Lottery need-based school construction grant, the design work and architectural services for the renovation project at Highlands Middle School will be funded through the grant, rather than a local allocation.
Last year, the lottery raised a record $936 million to support education programs across North Carolina. In the same year, Macon County received $351,720 for school construction needs, which was allocated based on local officials who decided the best use of the construction funds. The Board of Commissioners voted in October to apply for the lottery funds, which are part of the repair, renovation, and expansion fund with the NC Lottery. In a 4-1 vote commissioners approved the application for the funds, which will now be used to pay for the design of the project.
Earlier this year, the NCACC’s 115th Annual Conference featured a session with the North Carolina Education Lottery to share news of the increased investment that is adding millions more to what was already earmarked for school construction. That announcement included information about $50 million to the new Public School Building Repair & Renovation Fund. A $500,000 grant goes to each of the state’s 100 counties to help renovate and repair school buildings. That’s in addition to $300,000 grants provided last year. Counties must apply to receive the grants at the Office of School Construction in the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI).
The grassroots group Advancing Highlands Education Committee (AHEC) raised funds for a planning study to be completed that determined needs of the school that initially estimated $8 million would be needed to meet the school needs. However, that number was reduced to $5 million ahead of the joint session with the project scope being changed to address the most pressing needs. A portion of those needed renovations included repairs to the middle school which amounted to nearly $700,000.
Tuesday night’s vote moves the middle school renovation project one step closer to completion. In addition to the renovations at the middle school, LS3P Architects also won the bid to complete the Schematic Design Contract for an expansion of the middle school, which would free up space in the elementary wing to construct to new pre-k classrooms. The renovation project is separate from the expansion project, which would create two new pre-k spaces.