Calhoun gym — to renovate or destroy?

Published 11:45 pm Friday, October 19, 2018

Lincoln County school officials face a tough choice — renovate Bogue Chitto’s old gym, or smash it to bits and build something new.

The Lincoln County School District Board of Trustees put off the decision Monday after a brief discussion revealed them unready to make the call on Calhoun Gymnasium, the last-remaining facility from the original Bogue Chitto Attendance Center, which opened in 1923 and was demolished before the turn of the century. Trustees are grappling with the fact that renovating the gym for new classroom space would be cheaper, but with nearly $7 million sitting in construction funds, they can easily build the county’s nicest classrooms.

“I don’t have anything against the gym, and I know it’s more costly to build new, but I’d like to see the children at Bogue Chitto have a new building,” said Educational District 1 Trustee Kay Coon. “Our kids deserve new classroom space if we can afford it.”

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Superintendent Mickey Myers said early estimates predict a cost of $90 per square foot for retrofitting the building with a metal roof, walling off the interior and installing new electrical and communications wiring. He said Bogue Chitto Principal Scott Merrell plans to house two new programs in the building — band and career-tech.

Calhoun Gym is roughly 10,000 square feet, meaning renovation costs would reach $900,000. Early estimates by Dungan Engineering and Waycaster and Associates Architects predict the cost of building new at $150 per square foot, meaning the board would be facing a $1.5 million expense — after paying the cost of demolition and debris cleanup.

Merrell identified the renovation of Calhoun Gym as his school’s most-pressing facilities need last month when Myers requested all principals develop a district-wide construction priorities list.

Bogue Chitto currently uses Calhoun — which opened in 1963 and was broken in by Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s basketball team — for physical education and for other activities as-needed. It was replaced by the school’s new gym in 2013, a 1,000-seat facility completed at a cost of $2.7 million. Enterprise Attendance Center built an almost-identical gym that same year for $2.5 million.

The decision has too many variables for trustees right now. Educational District 2 Trustee Johnny Hart asked why estimates put the new-construction cost at $150 per square foot when the estimates for the new sports complex at Loyd Star called for $106 per square foot.

The board voted down the Loyd Star facility 3-2 in late August, but members said the project could come back after some adjustments. Earlier this week, the board authorized Myers to take the first steps in a possible eminent domain suit to acquire a small piece of land needed to connect Loyd Star to the adjacent property on which the sports facility would be built.

Educational District 3 Trustee and board president Diane Gill also requested more details before voting on the matter. She also pointed out the Bogue Chitto community is currently without representation — the board will fill the vacancy created by the Sept. 10 resignation of former member Ricky Welch on Monday.

“They, right now, do not have a representative at the table,” Gill said.

The board tabled any action on the decision and plans to have Merrell and an architect from Waycaster discuss the gym at the board’s Nov. 19 meeting.