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School system moves forward with McDuffie Place

The McDuffie County Board of Education is moving forward with improvements on McDuffie Place.

And they are leaving a proposal to purchase a boat on dry land.

At the regular monthly meeting in June, McDuffie school board members approved a budget for excess energy payment funds that includes additions to the Board of Education central offices, the hiring of maintenance technicians, a maintenance truck, a new boat dock and cabin repairs at McDuffie Place.

As previously reported by The Mirror, funds to purchase a pontoon boat and boat trailer for the property was included in the original proposal presented to the BOE during their planning session in March; but, was removed after members questioned the expense.

"The proposed purchase of a boat has been taken from this budget," Assistant Superintendent Jim Franklin said in a note on the proposed budget.

McDuffie Place is a tract of waterfront property on Clarks Hill that has been leased by the school system from the U.S. Corps of Engineers since Ed Grisham was superintendent and Roy Yelton was assistant superintendent, according to Dr. Franklin. Initially, McDuffie Place was a haven for Thomson High School Future Farmers of America students, who built a cabin there. FFA students no longer use the area, according to teacher Jersey Johnson, because it is "too far away." Interviews last March by The Mirror did not turn up a school teacher, club or group who currently use the facility. But the school system is looking to change that.

Over the years, various renovation projects - including bathroom facilities, a kitchen, new roof and furniture - have been completed as a requirement to maintain the lease. According to the revised budget memorandum, in the spring of this year, a new boat dock was installed on the property for $9,500 along with an anchor landing for $3,000. All improvements have been funded through the budget of energy payments and not through the general fund. Superintendent Mark Petersen said school money will not be used to purchase a boat, but other avenues will be explored.

"I think we will find another way to secure those resources at McDuffie Place," he said. "Whether that will be taking donations or whatever else, I don't know. There is more than one way to skin a cat so to speak. It might be two years or greater down the road, but we are thinking about it."

Dr. Franklin said the boat proposal was designed to protect the school system from liability because the use of personal boats for school activities is prohibited by state policy. He said the school system would like for the facility to be used for marine biology or other educational studies, as well as teaching underprivileged students to fish.

"We think the idea is a good one," Dr. Petersen said. "We want to provide the opportunity for children to learn life skills. That's what school is about."

Web posted on Thursday, July 12, 2007

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