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The Wallace community turned out in force on Monday, August 4, to see the ceremonial start of the construction of a new Wallace Elementary/Middle School.
The school district hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at 5:30 p.m., with school board members donning hard hats and picking up golden shovels to mark the occasion. Dr. Helena Tillar, the district superintendent, and Wallace Principal Janice Henson joined them in moving some dirt, as did a handful of the community members who turned out for the event.
In her opening remarks, Tillar applauded the "forward thinking" of the school board in pursuing the project and said it has been a collaborative effort among many partners to get to the point of breaking ground.
"I hope what we begin today will have a lasting and positive effect, not only for this community, but for the Marlboro County School District as a whole," she said.
Board Chair Lucy Parsons commented on the cohesiveness of the Wallace community, as did Michael Coachman, who represents the area on the board. Coachman also thanked the board and the voters who made the new school possible.
"I want to see the children of Wallace have the best," he said. "Hopefully by next August, we will be in our brand-new school."
As principal, Henson acknowledged that many in the community had mixed feelings about the day, in that they are excited about getting a new school but nostalgic about the end of the school that has served the area for so long. She urged everyone to share their memories and old pictures for a special farewell that is being planned for the old building.
In a referendum in November 2012, Marlboro County voters overwhelmingly approved up to $20 million in general obligation bonds to pay for a new school in Wallace, along with a penny sales tax to cover the debt.
Last month, the board authorized an agreement with the contractor, Thompson Turner Construction, setting a guaranteed maximum price of just over $18.6 million. With another $3.4 million in district costs, the total project cost at that time was estimated to be a little over $22 million.
At Monday's school board meeting, which followed the groundbreaking ceremony, Chief Finance Officer Wes Park reported that the cost of a water line which was part of the project has been reduced by about $175,000, thanks to reducing the length of the water line. Another $100,000 was cut from the cost of furnishings for the new school, creating a new project total of about $21.8 million, he said.
Park also said he is hopeful that the County Transportation Committee will agree to fund off-site road improvements, which are projected to cost almost $400,000. The CTC will next meet in October and is expected to consider the district's request then.
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