South Madison board approves activity center, renovations

PENDLETON — The South Madison Community School Corp. board has approved plans to build a new activity center and wrestling room at Pendleton Heights High School.

The board voted 7-0 to move forward with a $12 million to $15 million renovation project after a second determination hearing Thursday, Jan. 11.

The construction and renovation will be the first major project at the high school in 20 years, and plans are to begin work as soon as possible.

The best-case scenario would be to receive and award bids in June, superintendent Joe Buck said. He said he’d like to have detailed construction drawings completed in August and the activity center under a roof by the end of November. This would allow interior work to continue through winter.

“I am also excited about the opportunity to make improvements to the school corporation, because I personally experienced the lack of adequate and available space during my 13 years at the high school,” Buck said.

Principal Mark Hall also said he’s excited for construction to begin.

“It is something that has been needed for many years and was part of the renovation in 1997, but was removed from the project,” he said.

School leaders expressed concern about the project’s impact on parking and traffic flow at the high school.

Most new construction will take place in an area that is now a parking lot. Plans are to have new parking spaces available in another area prior to construction.

The board voted to issue bonds and create a financial lease agreement for the work. The lease will be for a maximum of 22 years, with a maximum annual lease rental of $3,508,000 — although the lease could be for a much shorter term of 10 years.

The lease rental has been projected on the estimated principal of the amount of the bonds, $12.8 million, with estimated interest rates ranging from 2 to 5 percent and total estimated interest costs of $3,592,400.

The corporation has debt that soon will be retired from its debt services fund; this allows the district to complete the project without increasing its tax rate, Buck said.

Concepts for the projects have been identified.

The activity center will include three regulation-size basketball courts and a three-lane running track, plus a new weight-lifting room.

The wrestling area and locker room project would include two new locker rooms — one boys and one girls — that would be accessible from the outside for fall and spring activities as well as from the inside.

The district also plans to expand the existing wrestling area and add restrooms, office space, storage space and a laundry room.

The activity center also will be designed to accommodate a variety of uses, such as practice space for high school athletic teams; practice space for band, choir, color guard and percussion organizations; and space for other co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

Buck said it’s important to build the new facilities because there is competition among school districts, including competition for students.

District leaders said they hope to provide schools that make the community proud — a place where parents want to send their children.

“We believe these projects support these goals,” Buck said.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or