Alabaster likely to fund $32,000 city schools feasibility study

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Alabaster officials likely will vote in favor of funding a $32,000 feasibility study into a possible Alabaster city school district, members of the City Council announced during an April 20 work session.

During the session, the council members agreed they were in favor of approving funding for the study during their April 21 regular meeting.

The announcement came about three weeks after several council members said they would be in favor of creating a municipal school district separate from the Shelby County School District, which currently operates Alabaster’s six schools.

If the motion passes during the April 21 meeting, the city will pay consultant Ira Harvey $32,000 to conduct the feasibility study, which will take about three months to complete. Harvey has previously conducted similar feasibility studies for Satsuma, Fairhope and Leeds.

“Leeds was very satisfied with the study he did for them,” said Ward 1 Councilwoman Sophie Martin. “They said it was all accurate and right-on. They had no complaints at all.”

During the council’s March 31 work session, City Administrator George Henry said Alabaster likely will have to consider raising its property or sales taxes to provide adequate funding for a city school district.

“I don’t have one bit of problem paying a little more to have a better product,” said Ward 6 Councilman Scott Brakefield. “I think this is a tremendous opportunity for us to look at.”

The county school district is planning to construct a new intermediate or middle school in Alabaster, a plan some city officials said they oppose. Alabaster Mayor David Frings said he would rather see a new Thompson High School.

“The Board (of Education) had no idea about (County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller’s) plan (to construct a new middle or intermediate school), which is very poor,” said Frings, who added he is undecided on the city school district issue.

“I am leaning more toward wanting our own system. They are mandating a solution for the city of Alabaster,” Frings added.

Frings encouraged the council members to follow through with the results of Harvey’s study.

“I feel the study is high, as far as cost, but I think it will be a roadmap to build a city school system,” Frings said. “I think you will get a good product (from Harvey).”

Brakefield said if the city decides to establish a municipal school district, it would take about two years to complete the separation from the county district. The earliest Alabaster could have a city district is 2013, he said.

City Attorney Jeff Brumlow said if Alabaster does decide to launch a city school district in 2013, it would have to have a school board in place by this time next year. The school board would elect a superintendent to negotiate the terms of the split with Fuller, Brumlow said.