|On the move School board office relocates |
|Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 9:03 pm |
| By CHRIS MENEES |
For years, students learned all types of trades at the county vocational school in Union City’s industrial park.
Now, it’s the new home of the Obion County Board of Education’s central office.
The board office relocated this week from its longtime location at 316 South Third St. in Union City, adjacent to the courthouse, to its new location in the former vocational school at 1700 North Fifth St.
The old vocational school, called the Career Technology Center in more recent years, became vacant when vocational education was moved onto the campuses at Obion County Central and South Fulton high schools — resulting in students no longer being transported to the Fifth Street location to learn trades.
Obion County Director of Schools David Huss said rather than leaving the majority of the large building vacant, options began to be considered for its use. The building had been deeded to the school system and the adult education offices were already located there.
“When vocational education moved back to the campuses, this building was sitting here idle,” Huss said Wednesday afternoon from the new office. “Our thoughts were ‘why pay insurance and utilities on this building and on the other board office, too, and let this building sit empty?’”
Plans began to be studied for using the building as the county school system’s central office, but Huss said reality quickly set in. The first remodeling estimate from a contractor was a whopping three-quarters of a million dollars.
“We just could not do that,” he said.
School officials continued to weigh their options and ultimately decided they would save significantly on labor costs by doing the work themselves and with jail inmate labor.
“We talked to the sheriff about using inmate labor,” Huss said. “And they have been absolutely wonderful. They supplied practically all the labor. We have done total remodeling for fractions of the initial estimate.”
Although the director did not have the exact figures available Wednesday, he said the cost of the remodeling job was lowered to the $100,000 to $150,000 range with the use of inmate and in-house labor.
“All we had was the cost of materials,” he explained.
Huss said among the biggest costs of materials were getting the old school building’s sprinkler system and the heating and cooling system up to code. Much of what was purchased for the renovation was simply basic materials like Sheetrock™ and new flooring, giving the building a warm and inviting atmosphere.
“It was a lot of hard work, but it’s beautiful inside. They have really done a great job,” he said, giving credit to the sheriff’s department for the inmate labor, as well as school system and highway department personnel.
Huss said the building is roughly 47,000 square feet and the school system is using about 20,000 square feet of space. He said the space they are using is probably about double what the staff had at its old building on South Third Street.
“We went from a little bit to a whole lot,” he said.
The sprawling building also houses the Obion County Emergency Man-agement Agency on one end and the sheriff’s department has a training center-type facility upstairs on the same end, according to Huss. Plus, the county Extension Service has a bay to store some equipment.
Future plans for the school system also include the addition of a board professional development center after the start of the next school year.
The old school board office on South Third Street will be turned back over to the county as soon as everything is cleared out.
Inmate labor was also utilized this week for the move from the old board office to the new office, and school system staff members have spent the last couple of days unpacking boxes and getting settled into their spacious new offices.
Amid the move, school business is being conducted as usual. The communications portion of the move was a smooth transition, largely due to the decision to switch to a voice over IP system about a year ago, a move which Huss said was also a tremendous cost savings.
Huss told The Messenger this has been a hectic week with the move, but some visitors have already found the new office to conduct their business. He hopes everything can be back on track by the end of this week as school system personnel move into one of their busiest times of the year — closing out one school year and preparing for the start of the next.
He said the public is welcome to stop by and see the new facility, although some work is still being done on the front of the building and the landscaping is not yet finished. There is also still some blacktopping to be done and parking to be established.
“We are absolutely pleased with the new facility,” Huss said. “We are very proud of being out here.”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.9.13