Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

The Macon County Board of Education spent the last of its capital outlay dollars Monday night, when they allocated $5,500 towards the $11,635.50 needed to repair a busted pipe in the vocational building at Franklin High School.

“The leak was found because it is hot water that is running through those pipes,” explained Todd Gibbs. “When a pipe cracks/splits, the water is hot enough that steam will percolate up through the ground. Where the steam comes out of the ground may not be exactly where the split is. Our maintenance guys had to dig a ditch that was about six feet deep (depth of the pipe) and about 20 feet long to find exactly where the split/crack was.”

The pipe that burst carried hot water throughout the vocational building and was the main source of heat for that building. Without the pipe operating, the building would be without heat. According to Gibbs, the pipe was about 25 years old and had just reached its limits. According to Gibbs, the busted pipe at Franklin High School was just one of the problems at the aging facility.

“The pipes that burst between the high school gym and the vocational building were 25 years old,” said Macon County Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin. “These pipes are part of some of the most recent infrastructure improvements on that campus. Older FHS buildings were built in the late 1950s, making them around 60 years old. Buildings of this age are likely to require plumbing, electrical and structural maintenance and repair.”

Franklin High School is the oldest school in the district and has been the topic of conversation for years in regards to the best, most economically feasible way to address the aging, outdated facility. School district and county leaders have debated for years whether or not to purchase new property to construct a new school, construct a replacement facility on the same property in phases, or just continue to repair the existing facility. This year, in addition to the busted water pipes, the district spent thousands of dollars to repair a broken elevator at the high school. Capital outlay funds have been used each year to replace broken windows and repair infrastructure needs and deficiencies, but at some point a long term plan will be needed for the future of the high school.

For the busted water pipes, the county emptied out the capital outlay account, which is a separate account of funding allocated by the commissioners for capital projects during the year, to pay down what is needed for the repairs. The remaining $6,000 still has to be paid on the project. Monday night, members of the board of education voted to ask county commissioners to pick up the remaining cost of the repairs. While commissioners provide the school system with funds for local operating expenses, they also cover the costs of renovations and repairs. So far this year, they provided the district with capital outlay funds as well as agreed to begin the process on a $1.6 million expansion of South Macon Elementary. Since the repairs at Franklin High School are for infrastructure, the district voted it would be appropriate to ask commissioners to cover the remaining cost.

In the event commissioners do not pay the $6,000 needed for the project, the school district does have funds available in their fund balance to pay for the project.