More changes in store for Macon Promise Center building

jmink@macon.comJune 4, 2014 

Bibb County school officials are discussing the future of the Macon Promise Center after recently terminating an operations agreement involving the Anthony Road building.

Plans to locate the future Hutchings College and Career Charter Academy in the Promise Center are now on hold, as the school board deliberates whether to buy the Promise Center building, interim Superintendent Steve Smith said.

“The door’s not shut on the possibility of purchasing it,” Smith said.

An independent appraisal listed the building’s value as $6.5 million to about $9.1 million, Smith said. The district is leasing a large part of the building for $575,000 a year over 10 years, and Central Georgia Technical College uses the rest of the building, including space for adult education classes and basketball.

The school district’s portion of the building remains empty for now, and officials would want to buy the building before relocating the Hutchings program there, Smith said. But, no decisions have been made about the possible purchase, and the Hutchings Career Center is slated to become a charter academy by August.

Still, district officials plan to offer some programs in the Promise Center by January and are discussing the types of programs to locate there. The center likely would serve as a satellite campus for educational programs, specifically career, technical and agricultural education classes, Smith said.

For now, there have been no changes to the Promise Center lease, and the school district still is involved in the Macon Promise Neighborhood initiative, which seeks to revive the Unionville and Tindall Heights neighborhoods of Macon.

The school board voted Tuesday to terminate a memorandum of understanding, which held the school district responsible for operational costs of the Promise Center. Under the agreement, the district paid the Georgia Partnership for Individual and Community Development initiative up to $325,000 a year. Those payments were supposed to fund tasks, such as painting and mowing the lawn. Now, the school district will use its own maintenance workers for those jobs.

“It’s not a good relationship to be in,” board member Lynn Farmer said. “We’re perfectly capable of maintaining that building rather than giving away $325,000 that could be used for educational purposes.”

The school board voted to not fund those operational costs next fiscal year -- or any future years. The memorandum, which was signed in October 2012, included a clause that allowed the school board to opt out of the agreement. The school board made that decision before it votes on the final fiscal 2015 budget on June 19. That budget does not include Promise Center operational funding.

Smith said he has been involved in discussions about the Promise Center, and while he agrees with the philosophy of the Macon Promise Neighborhood initiative, he did not agree with the memorandum.

“Why would we pay for something that we have the resources to provide services for?” Smith asked. “And, to me, that’s a landlord’s responsibility, not the tenant’s responsibility.”

Calls to the partnership were not returned by early Wednesday evening.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.

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