Alabaster schools move on $120 million bond issue

ACS Operations Coordinator Dr. Jeff Atkins drives an all-terrain vehicle on the future site of the city's new high school and athletic complex between Thompson Road and Kent Dairy Road. The city's School Board voted to move forward with bonds for the project on Aug. 20. (File)

ACS Operations Coordinator Dr. Jeff Atkins drives an all-terrain vehicle on the future site of the city’s new high school and athletic complex between Thompson Road and Kent Dairy Road. The city’s School Board voted to move forward with bonds for the project on Aug. 20. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – The Alabaster Board of Education gave the OK during an Aug. 20 meeting to move forward with $120 million in bonds to construct a new high school and make improvements to the city’s existing school buildings.

Board members voted unanimously during the meeting to authorize School Board President Adam Moseley to sign an agreement to move forward with the bond sale.

The bonds will be issued in two separate series: An about $12 million taxable bond series intended to pay off the debt Alabaster City Schools assumed from Shelby County Schools during Alabaster’s separation from the county school system, and an about $108 million bond to fund school construction and renovations.

During a pre-meeting work session, Bob Young, ACS’ investment advisor, said the bonds were scheduled to go to market on Aug. 21. Once the bonds are sold, Moseley will sign an agreement to “lock in the interest rate” on the bonds, which likely will average about 4.25 percent on the tax exempt bond and about 3.1 percent on the taxable bond, Young said.

Once the $120 million in bonds are issued, the bulk of the money will be used to purchase about 300 acres of land between Kent Dairy Road and Thompson Road and construct a 360,000-square-foot new Thompson High School and athletic complex on the land, which likely will open in 2017.

ACS also plans to renovate the existing THS to serve as Thompson Middle School, and plans to transform the current TMS into Thompson Intermediate School.

Plans also call for transforming the current TIS and Thompson Sixth Grade Center campus into the school system’s central office, alternative school and special-needs center. This would move the Sixth Grade Center into the freshman building on the current THS building.

The bonds also will help to fund already-completed drainage improvements to the parking lot behind the current TIS building and renovations – including a new pressbox and turf field – at Larry Simmons Stadium.

Young said the School Board likely will vote on the bond issuance during its Sept. 15 meeting, before the bond issues are likely finalized on Sept. 17.

The Alabaster City Council voted in June to lock in the city’s 2011 penny sales tax increase for the next 30 years to help ACS secure the $120 million in bonds.

“This process is something we want to be open about,” Alabaster School Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers said. “We are hopefully coming to the end of one part of our journey and moving onto the long-awaited step of building a new high school.”