Here are the projects that would be funded under Bibb County’s $185 million education tax plan

Bibb County voters have just one item on the ballot in Tuesday’s election, but the stakes are high.

Voters will decide whether to keep paying an extra 1% sales tax to raise $185 million for school improvements over the next five years.

Projects to be funded include a new elementary school, safety improvements, athletic field upgrades, building renovations, new buses, a performing arts center and more.

The school system’s Chief of Staff Keith Simmons and Athletic Director Barney Hester met with The Telegraph on Monday at Thompson Stadium to talk about how the sales tax will fund a makeover there.

The field on Shurling Drive hosts about three football games a week and the turf shows it. The tax would pay for new advanced artificial turf like that at the Ed Defore Sports Complex.

“We play three games a week on that field also, and you wouldn’t even know it out there,” Hester said.

The Ed Defore field was the first in the country to get the turf, which is designed to reduce heat and player injuries, Hester said. Other schools and colleges from around the country have been coming to see it.

In addition to the turf, Thompson will get new lights, a new scoreboard and possibly additional parking.

Simmons said the project would have an impact beyond athletics.

“It will help kick start some revitalization on this part of town,” he said.

There’s another athletics related item to be funded by the tax that Hester considers vital. No middle school athletic field in the county has irrigation, and the tax would fund that.

Hester was asked what kind of condition the fields were in during the recent drought.

“You don’t even want to know,” he said. “Not good.”

Security upgrades sought

The tax also would fund more and better surveillance cameras at the schools, and improved ability to remotely lock all doors if there is a threat, Simmons said.

The tax would fund a new elementary school, at a location to be determined, depending on the future need. It would pay for a performing arts center to be used by all of the middle schools.

Other items in the tax include:

  • Renovations to Rutland Middle School, Rutland High School, Howard Middle School, and Howard High School
  • New school buses and other transportation and maintenance equipment
  • New furniture where needed
  • New cafeteria seating

Simmons noted that about 97 percent of the projects in the current sales tax have been completed.

Early voting started Oct. 14 and continues through Friday at the Board of Elections office at 2525 Pio Nono Avenue, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Those voting Tuesday can find their polling location at Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter webpage.

Wayne Crenshaw has worked as a journalist since 1990 and has been a reporter for The Telegraph since 2002. He holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Georgia College and is a resident of Warner Robins.