BOC approve land purchase for new performing arts center

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

A new performing arts center is coming to the Fairview area, thanks to the Henry County Board of Education.

The board approved at its July 11 regular meeting the purchase of 16.93 acres along Fairview, Thurman and Rex roads from five property owners at a cost of $1.057 million, which is just above the combined appraised value of the land at $1.013 million. The facility will sit adjacent to Fairview Elementary School.

The estimated cost of the entire project, including land and the building, is about $15 million. All of that money will come from the current E-SPLOST approved by voters a couple of years ago. The new PAC was on the project list approved in advance of the E-SPLOST referendum.

According to the agreement with the school district, the sellers of the property can occupy their land until May 31, 2018. The design phase is expected to begin this fall with bidding on the project to come soon thereafter, according to district officials. A hard completion date has not been announced, but officials hope to have the facility open for use during the 2019-2020 school year.

The current performing arts center, built by the school system two decades ago, sits adjacent to Henry County High School. It will be renovated after the new facility is completed to enhance some of its features and expands its seating capacity from just over 700 to about 1,000. That will match the capacity of the Fairview center.

Some citizens have criticized the decision, saying that the Fairview location is not as easily accessible by many in the county as other potential locations in the northern end of the county, such as nearer Stockbridge and along the I-75 corridor.

The same criticism took place in the mid-1990s when the existing center was developed, as many wanted it to sit closer to the expressway and near the current county administrative complex. It was rumored then that the county offered to partner with the school system on the project and provide land in that location, but the school board at that time turned it down. Others charged that the location choice was political, since at the time there were only three high schools in the county — and since Eagle’s Landing High was a new school and Stockbridge High had just relocated to a new campus, some felt Henry County High should benefit from the PAC.

But amid recent controversy involving the search for a new superintendent and debate over the new budget, the decision on the Fairview land purchase was approved by a unanimous vote.

“We are grateful to the voters of the county for passing the E-SPLOST and allowing us to continue to enhance our system in positive ways such as this badly needed performing arts center,” a district spokesperson stated last week. “The taxpayers are not solely responsible for the costs as the sales tax is paid by anyone who spends a dollar in Henry County. After the new performing arts center is completed and the current performing arts center is renovated, the school system aims to place one more performing arts center on the E-SPLOST VI project list and build it on the south side of the county.”