After years of waiting and working on raising funds, Dearing citizens will see construction on the renovation of their old elementary school gym begin in early November. At their monthly meeting Monday evening, the town council members unanimously approved John W. Spratlin and Son Company as the contractor for the project.
"I am relieved that we had a bid that met qualifications, was under budget and had good references," Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley said in an interview after the meeting. "And I will be even more relieved when it's over."
In August 2006, Mayor Kelley received notice that the town received a $500,000 Georgia Community Development Block Grant to renovate the gym into a community center. Following a mandatory pre-bid walk through and hearing with architect Jerry Dennis of Precision Planning and grant writer Rhonda Gilbert, three contractors turned in bids on Sept. 27.
Premier Construction Services bid $798,000, Two State Construction bid $733, 912 and Spratlin and Son bid $499,000. During Monday's meeting, council member Daisy Ansley expressed concern over the large difference in the amounts of the bids.
"I questioned other officials about that," Mayor Kelley said. "And they said it was not unheard of to have such different amounts... I guess some companies are more hungry than others right now."
Even though Spratlin's bid is only $1,000 shy of the total budget, Mr. Dennis said there was nothing to worry about because the company included over $10,000 in alternates. The architect explained that alternates allow the company to replace one type of material with a cheaper version, such as wood door frames for vinyl, in the event that unforeseen problems drive up the cost of the job. Mr. Dennis said the gym contains no asbestos, but workers will have to deal with lead paint in the building.
Because federal funds are paying for the project, contractors must follow federal labor laws and on-site interviews of employees will be conducted to ensure reports are accurate.
"There's never been a problem before with this," Ms. Gilbert said at the pre-bid meeting. "It's just a little extra paper work."
One piece of paperwork the contractor and sub-contractors won't have to worry about is the building permit. Dearing has no building codes, which was another concern of council members. Mayor Kelley said he talked with McDuffie County officials, and they will do inspections on the construction. Also, Dearing resident Andy Rodgers was appointed during the grant hearing meeting in October 2006 to be the citizen-at-large who will unofficially inspect and report the condition of the building. Mr. Dennis said the state fire marshal also will inspect the building.
The renovation project will include refinishing the gym floor, reroofing the entire structure, repairing trim work on the exterior and restoring the windows. The storage rooms in the rear of the building will be converted to two public restrooms.
Some changes will be made to bring the building up to the American Disability Association code requirements, and all work will be approved by the Historic Preservation Division.
Conditions of the grant require the building be used for 20 years to help the underprivileged in the area. Therefore a 600-square-foot education room will be added on the side of the building. The addition will be modernized, but will compliment the historical character of the building, Mr. Dennis said.
The gym will be used for teaching English as a second language classes, basketball camps for the Boys and Girls Club, GED classes and senior citizen exercise programs, in addition to recreational and community events.
Completion of the renovation is scheduled for September 2008.