By Bill Short
Former mayor Richard Hodges recently offered suggestions to the municipal school system regarding the scheduled demolition of several buildings on the Millington Central High School campus.
At the March 7 meeting of the Millington School Board, Chairman Cody Childress said the plan is to demolish the old cafeteria, Library/Science, ROTC and Vocational classroom buildings this summer. The school’s auditorium will remain until a new Fine Arts Center has been constructed.
Dr. David Roper, superintendent of the school system, said the demolition of the Vocational classroom building will not include the “auto shop area.”
In a July 5 letter to Roper and the school board, Hodges suggested demolishing the auto shop but not the cafeteria. He said that, if two overhead doors are placed in the cafeteria building and the brick is painted, it could serve as the auto and small engine shop.
Hodges also suggested demolishing the auditorium, using the Harvell Civic Center when the high school presents stage productions and converting the old Science building into a Fine Arts Center.
“Crawl, walk, then run,” he wrote. “You’re wasting too much money.”
During a telephone interview late last week, Hodges said it would cost $4.5 million to construct a new Fine Arts Center.
He noted that the old Science building is a two-story steel structure with brick sides, an elevator, and approximately 24,000 square feet.
“When I had it checked out,” he recalled, “the engineer told me that there are no load-bearing walls. So, that means you could take every wall out of the bottom, and it would still be fine.”
Hodges acknowledged that the building needs a new roof, and it contains mold. But he said most of the mold is “harmless” and can be removed.
“You put a roof on it, knock every wall out of the bottom, and all you’d have to do is put a sprinkler system in,” he noted. “You could save $2 million easily.”
Hodges said the entire first floor would provide whatever amount of space is needed for a Fine Arts Center.
During a telephone interview early this week, Childress expressed appreciation for Hodges’ suggestions. But he said the board has already “looked at all that.”
While noting that the old Library/Science building contains asbestos that must be removed, he also said its first floor has much less square footage than the Fine Arts Center will need.
And because of the Science building’s location, Childress said it will not be part of the “footprint” that the board is attempting to create.
“We’re trying to give this campus a facelift,” he noted. “The people of Millington always get leftovers. We’re always second-rated. And we want to make sure that the city, the students and the schools get something that’s first-class.”
At a special called meeting last month, the board unanimously awarded a demolition contract to Biggs Construction Co. in Rosemark.
Childress said the company has “just about taken care of” all the utilities that must be cut off and re-routed before it actually begins the demolition.
As soon as the buildings are down and the site is graded, he said the construction project will start. He anticipates that ground will be broken for the new Fine Arts Center in late October or early November.
Childress acknowledged that residents e-mail the board “periodically” with suggestions, which are not discarded. And he called Hodges a “fixture” in the community.
“We certainly respect anything he has to offer us, as we would any citizens,” he concluded. “But before we went this route, we looked at saving as much as we could wherever we could.”