Gettys sale subject of called board meeting

By D. C. Moody

January 30, 2014

PICKENS — The Pickens County School Board of Trustees has called a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 3 to vote on the sale of a surplus building but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on the timing.

The sale of old Gettys, a middle school no longer in use by the district, has slowly become a point of contention within the board and community with debate ranging from yearly costs of upkeep to a possible need for the building in the future.

“It’s costing the district $200,000 per year to maintain this surplus building,” said Alex Saitta, vice chairman of the board. “We can kill two birds with one stone with this one. We can rid ourselves of the maintenance costs and use the funds generated from the sale for repairs and upkeep.”

Judy Edwards, on the other hand, isn’t comfortable with the haste in which the sale is now being handled or if there’s a possibility of a future need not being considered.

“Those on the board in favor of the sale know they have the vote to make it happen right now,” Edwards explained. “Once the election for the empty seat is held, there won’t be that certainty, in my opinion. I understand it costs money for upkeep, but at the very least why are we not opening up the process for more bids? Why are we in a hurry when there may be other options out there?”

Legacy Charter was at one time considered the best option as a potential buyer for Gettys but that sale was eventually voted down 4-2 a short time before Chairman Ben Trotter’s resignation.

Edwards thinks the district and board need to be looking into the future to anticipate needs and this campus might be a solution.

“In my opinion, East End, West End and Forest Acres are slowly nearing their capacity and that’s only going to leave us with a few options if it does happen,” Edwards said. “We will either have to rezone or redistrict, build a new elementary school, or use the facilities we have. Down the road, I think it’s going to be inevitable.”

Saitta disagreed with this evaluation and saw the numbers at schools like Forest Acres as a created anomaly.

“The trend in numbers is due to a migration from the northern end of the county to the southern end,” he stated. “We have up to 120 kids opting out of schools like McKissick to enroll at a Forest Acres, which makes the numbers appear as if they’re higher. The easy way to solve this need is to do away with or eliminate the opt-out or opt-in choice for parents. We don’t have the luxury of building another school.”

The motion for the special meeting was proposed by board member Jim Shelton. Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.