Posts Tagged ‘BRAC’

Yes to School SPLOST, but with Reservations

July 28, 2009

 I’ll probably vote for the SPLOST for Muscogee County School District schools, but not because I am happy with the way things are going in our schools. 

The money is basically going for building new schools and upgrading old ones.  With 4,000 new students expected to put a strain on the system when BRAC is fully deployed,  yes,  it appears, we are going to need more classrooms. 

However, it also appears we are not efficiently using the ones we already have.  For instance, I am told that there are now 900 students attending Jordan High.  At one time,  Jordan had the largest student body of any high school in Georgia, more than 2,300 students.  (It also had the only state STAR student ever produced by a MCSD school. Full disclosure: I graduated from Jordan in 1948. No, I was not that STAR student by a long shot.  Alexander Hunter won that honor in 1965.)   All of that unused space and portable classrooms are having to be added at Hardaway High because of  the students from underachieving schools being transferred there.  The No Child Left Behind federal law made this possible.

I guess we can’t blame parents for wanting their students to go to a school with a better academic record, but you have to ask,  why are the students at some schools doing so poorly?  The answers are myriad, I suppose. However, one of the main ones is the way school districts are set up, and the effects of magnet schools.   You send all of the kids whose parents are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder to a few schools and all of the more affluent kids to a few other  schools,  just exactly what do you think is going to happen? Well, it’s happened.

Yes, it appears the Muscogee County School District is a mess, but there are high hopes that new Superintendent Susan Andrews is going to turn that around.  SPLOST supporters are pushing that idea. But, she still has to answer to the school board.  I’m told the board is following her lead, but she really hasn’t been in the saddle long enough to know if that is going to hold up.

Meanwhile, I plan to vote for the penny-per-dollar sales tax for the schools.  BRAC simply means we have to have more classrooms.  That can’t be denied.  Still, I would like to see better use of the space we already have, but I realize that would take some major political changes.

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BRAC Brings Big Volume Home Builders from Out of Town

June 25, 2008

  Howard Jefferson tells me that some local home builders are not happy with him. He says it’s because his company is working hand in glove with out-of-town builders who are building homes cheaper than they can. Howard is the Principal Alabama Broker for Coldwell Banker Kennon Parker Duncan & Key. (Disclosure: we are in the same Rotary club.) He has empathy for the local builders, many of whom he has worked with over the years, but says the large building firms are a reality of the times.

 

 

 

Howard Jefferson

Coldwell Banker Kennon Parker Duncan & Key

 

 

  The thing about it, though, is that, during this housing sales slump, his firm is selling a lot of new houses. And, with BRAC bringing close to 30,000 new people into the area, they expect to sell a lot more.  The reason the houses built by huge out-of-town firms are selling is simple: price. 

 

  The main action right now is in Russell and Lee Counties, and Phenix City in Alabama. “There is more land available, and you get more house for the money, and taxes are lower than in Columbus,” he told me.  He should know; he heads up the Coldwell Banker group in the Russell and Lee Counties’ area of Alabama. 

 

“We are the number one real estate company in this area.  We get a 35 percent share of all homes listed in Columbus, and a 40 percent share in the Phenix City, Russell and Lee County area.” 

 

  Howard took me on a tour of the Fort Mitchell area which was an eye-opener. First of all, he took me to a subdivision built by local builders that have a lot of houses for sale. Then he took me to Villages at Westgate, which is close to the Fort Benning west gate, the one that’s on the back side of Lawson Field.

 

 

 

Fort Benning’s West Gate

 

 

 

 These houses are selling just about as fast as they can build them, which shows that you don’t have to wait for BRAC to sell homes to Fort Benning soldiers. Tim Drew, a realtor on the site, says about 60 percent of home owners at Westgate are soldiers and their families.

 

 

 

Villages at Westgate

 

 

  Coldwell Bankers is selling them for Scenic Homes, which is headquartered in Snellville, Georgia. Scenic has constructed more than 5,000 homes in Georgia, Louisiana, North and South Carolina.  It’s the 54th largest builder in the country. Scenic claims that “Scenic Homes offers a wide variety of floor plans with up to approximately 2,900 square feet at a fraction of the cost of their competitors.”  Actually, according to Drew, the homes get as large as 3,059 square feet.

 

How can they do that?  For one thing, economy of scale. They can get better prices for building materials because of the large quantities they buy. Also, they have cheap labor, Howard told me. Who else makes tons of money using that philosophy? How about Wal-Mart?

 

  The houses in Westgate are impressive. It’s hard to believe that you can get such a large, new home for the price. 

 

 

 

 

 

 Great Room of a Westgate home

 

 

 

 

 

These homes range in price from $169,000 to $203,000. Coldwell Banker has already sold more than a hundred of them, and expects, before it’s all over, to sell more than 700 of them. The Fort Mitchell area is expected to grow by at least three thousand people as a result of the move of the 3rd Armor School to Fort Benning starting in the 4th quarter of next year.

 

    We’ll continue our look at the way BRAC will affect our area in future posts. Stay tuned. 

 

Impact of the BRAC Impact Hearing

June 23, 2008

  Last Tuesday evening I got the feeling that most people are still in denial about the huge way our world is changing and how they are going to have to change with it.

 

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  BRAC hearing at Columbus Public Library

 

  At the BRAC impact hearing at the Columbus Public Library, we all were given the opportunity of saying which of our transportation needs should have the top priority when 30,000 new folks with their thousands of cars and trucks move into the area.

 

 

                                          Voting Remote

Casting my vote

 

 

  When five options were listed on the screen, we used our voter remotes to register our choices. After all of the clicking was done, not to my surprise, the vast majority, 53 per cent, clicked on “minimize congestion.”  

 

                                         

 

 

“Add new sidewalks and bike trails” came in second at 22 percent.

 

 The one I clicked, “improve transit service” came in 4th at ten percent, beat out by “repair existing roads” at 12 percent.

 

  Last, and a big surprise to the folks who were conducting the hearing, was “improve access to Fort Benning,” at only 4 percent.  After all, the growth at Fort Benning is the reason for the big influx of people to our area.

 

  One man in the back of the room said he was surprised that “improve transit service” got such a low vote. I joined him in that opinion and said, “Considering the energy future, you have to wonder why people are still talking cars and roads and not mass transit and rails.”

 

  The man sitting next to me joined in with, “When gasoline hits $12 a gallon you are not going to have to worry about traffic congestion. People won’t be driving their cars.” 

 

  Retiring Deputy Superintendent of the Muscogee County School District Dr. Robin Pennock, said, “Solving the traffic congestion problem will take a combination of all of the options on that list.”

 

 

                                          

  Dr. Robin Pennock, Deputy Superintendent MCSD

 

  She was right, in my view.

 

  The BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment Commission) issue is bringing out a lot of other issues that are important to our community. They would be important, even if the

area wasn’t about to grow by about 30,000 people in the next few years.  I’ll be discussing them in future posts.