Madison Parish picks site for new school|[3/8/05]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 8, 2005

TALLULAH – The Madison Parish School Board Monday night selected a primary site and an alternate for a new school to house its 6th- through 12th-graders.

By a vote of 6-2, with District 8 representative Terry Farlow-Hall and District 2 representative Patty Watts casting the nay votes, a site adjacent to the north side of Interstate 20, behind the Louisiana Technical College was chosen as the primary site. The alternative site is adjacent to the south side of I-20 and faces Louisiana 65. Both sites are between 50 to 60 acres.

Most of the land for the primary site is owned by Tommy Bishop, Superintendent Samuel Dixon said. The land for the alternative site is owned by Jackie Varner. Both have said they would sell the land to the school district, Dixon said.

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The board, which took less than five minutes to consider the action, followed the recommendation of an appointed site selection committee.

One member of the site selection committee stood up during the meeting and said the committee had not taken enough care in considering the sites. After the meeting, he called the committee a “sham.”

“There was no research done,” Louis Buckner told the board. “There was one meeting of the site selection committee and it lasted, as I recall, about 30 minutes. Ten minutes of that was just pointing on a map,” Buckner said. He was appointed to the committee by Farlow-Hall.

Board President Joseph Candler said he had talked to 300 citizens and 78 percent of them favored the primary site, with the rest of the citizens expressing roughly equal preference for the other sites.

“We did the best we could do,” Candler said.

Buckner said, “I respectfully say we have not done the best we could do … A $20 million school and we spent 10 minutes poking at a map.”

Dixon said after the meeting that he believes the site selection process was thorough.

“I feel that the process has worked extremely well. The public has always been heard,” Dixon said.

Farlow-Hall said she was concerned about the lack of environmental tests being done on the chosen sites.

“There are some tests that were not actually done on this property,” she said. The primary site is near a dump, an aerial photo of the area shows.

Board member Joe Walk said the board needed to pick a site first, then get it appraised and have environmental tests done.

The new school will replace Tallulah High, McCall High, Tallulah Junior High and McCall Junior High schools. Parish voters approved a two-part tax election in November to fund a total of $23 million for the project. In the budget presented to the state before the election, $500,000 was set aside to purchase the land.

The first part of the tax election, an $18.5 million bond issue, was approved with 57 percent of the vote, 2,556 to 1,924. The second, a 1-cent sales tax increase that expires in 25 years, passed with 56 percent of the vote, 2,506 to 2,001.