New BHS creating a ‘buzz’

Published 4:33 pm Friday, April 3, 2009

The new Bainbridge High School’s construction and design is creating a “buzz” around the state, and its architects, builders and school officials couldn’t have been more pleased with the results, they said Thursday during the monthly Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

“This has been the smoothest running project we have ever worked on,” said Keith Barrett, an architect with Altman and Barrett, who is a partner with Walter Altman in their architecture firm from Valdosta.

Barrett said the building has attracted statewide attention because of its design and how well the project has progressed.

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“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Barrett said of the building’s design. He said state fire marshals are already saying how the design of the building may be copied by other school systems.

Barrett and Altman, who are both sons of educators, said after garnering much input, including that from each staff member of all the departments of the high school, the architects then looked at 10 to 12 other schools to help develop ideas on their design.

What they ended up with was a design that “is very unique,” and one that the designers, builders and school officials said the community should be extremely proud of.

The two-story 369,180-square-foot building is now being finished up with some final “punch lists” getting checked off.

Decatur County School Superintendent Ralph Jones says furnishings are being installed or bid out for order, and a community grand opening is still in the planning stages.

“It’s been the best project I’ve been associated with in 38 years,” said Bob Folkman, project manager for JCI General Contractors Inc. of Moultrie.

He said approximately 1,000 workers, builders, plumbers, electricians, craftsmen and others completed the building in less than two years. Some of those employed included high school students on a work-study program.

Comparing the size of the new high school, he said if those builders had built the average-size single-family house of 2,384 square feet, they would have built the equivalent of 155 new homes.

Also, Barrett said the cost per square foot for the building was $113, excluding site work and the land, which is a good bargain for this type of building.

And as if the stars were lined up just right and the rains didn’t fall during the first crucial months of construction; “Things have gone exceedingly well,” said Bill Weldon, president of All-State Construction of Tallahassee, Fla.

JCI and All-State Construction formed a joint venture to complete the new building. All-State Construction is also the firm that was contracted to fix and finish the Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center and was recently selected as the builder for the new student life center, which he said “will make a real impact on that college.”

Weldon said, “There something special about southwest Georgia people,” and he praised Bainbridge College President Tom Wilkerson, saying he is the epitome of a southern gentleman.

Folkman said the new high school’s project has contributed greatly to the local economy. JCI and All-State Construction pumped in more than $3.6 million spent directly in Decatur County. The indirect impact is far greater, he said.

For example, he said JCI and All-State tried to hire as many local subcontractors as possible, and spent locally here for lodging, fuel, meals, vehicle maintenance and services, which he cited personally has getting his haircut regularly from “Joe the barber.”

The more than $46 million project has been paid foe with $15 million coming from the state and the remaining $31 million coming from the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST), which is a penny sales tax that voters approved for the specific purpose of building the new high school.

Folkman said the key to the success of the project was to break it down, and manage each component. He said there were 72 individual sequences established to the project.

Jones said that it looked more like a war room with deadline charts and building plans hanging from the walls.

In response to questions, tentative plans are to install a caution-school zone light at the entrance of the high school, and that the building has planned for advancing technology.

“There shouldn’t be anything that you will have to do with that building,” Barrett said.