For Thomson Bulldog fans, the wait is over.
At the board of education meeting Tuesday morning, Superintendent Jim LeBrun announced that construction managers were meeting that very moment at the Brickyard to discuss renovations to the stadium.
Mr. LeBrun stressed that renovations will be done in phases, and a survey of the property must be done before a timeline can be established. Curt Eckman, of Parrish Construction Group, later told The McDuffie Mirror that he was taking pictures Tuesday for the survey crew and that they should begin working immediately.
The first item of interest to construction officials is a 10-inch water main under the bleachers. Mr. LeBrun said they are looking to relocate it and replace it with an 8-inch main, which has been approved by the city of Thomson.
"It's a safety issue," he said. "At the minimum, we need to get it out from under the bleachers. And for the best-case scenario, we would like to move it off the site totally."
The first phase of the project will involve replacing the bleachers. Other phases and improvements will be announced after the survey.
Mr. LeBrun said he has held back on Brickyard improvements because he was waiting to see how the economy was affecting Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue. The school system's budget was planned around a $300,000 monthly ESPLOST income.
"I always do budgets on the conservative end," he said. "Right now, it appears it is stabilized at $295,000, so I feel comfortable securing bonds to get that project started."
Comptroller Tom Smalley said voters had approved $12 million in bonds when ESPLOST IV was voted in. Only $8 million of that was used to build the new middle school on White Oak Road, with two annual payments -- in May and May 2012 -- remaining before it is paid off. So, the remaining $4 million will be used to begin Brickyard renovations.
Mr. LeBrun also stressed that there is not enough money left in ESPLOST IV to complete all renovations on the Brickyard and build a new Norris Elementary School.
The remaining phases of stadium renovations and all phases of the new elementary school will have to be included in the next SPLOST, Mr. LeBrun said.
In other business: Mr. LeBrun asked THS Principal Rudy Falana to "go on record" on his choices in the hiring of the Bulldogs' new football coach. Mr. Falana said there were rumors that he had been influenced to change his mind during the hiring process. He confirmed that he and Mr. LeBrun had chosen the same three top candidates. Mr. Falana said Milan Turner was his first choice, Chad Campbell of Peach County High School was his second and Franklin Stephens of Tucker High School in Dekalb County was his third.