After some tweaking, the board narrowed down the site selection considerations to the following:
1 Safety Considerations including the presence of railroad tracks, traffic, high voltage power lines, high pressure gas lines, contaminants/toxins in soil or ground water, high decibel noise sources, 100 year flood plain, and social hazards such as crime rate, presence of drugs/alcohol, etc.
2 Location Factors such as proximity to neighborhoods, walkability, zoning regulations, nearby community services (e.g. parks, libraries, museums), and favorable orientation to wind and natural light.
3 Accessibility to roads, sidewalks, foot traffic routes, emergency responders, police and fire protection. This category also includes obstacles such as heavy traffic, narrow or winding streets, major intersections as well as natural obstacles such as grades, gullies, etc.
4 Topography looks at soil analysis, property grade, subsurface stability, and existence of ground water.
5 Size & Shape considers such things as acreage (must be at least 13+ acres consistent with established standards), potential for future expansion, adequate space and orientation for car pool lines separate from walking routes, room for play areas, etc.
6 Availability The property must be on the market and have a willing seller. The City will not use its powers of eminent domain to acquire property.
7 Access to Utilities includes electricity, water, sewers as well as cost factors such as the need for water pressure boosters and right of way restrictions..
8 Reasonable Cost Factors such as acquisition costs, site prep & clean up costs, environment mitigation, reasonable maintenance costs, zoning, future community plans, legal expenses, etc.
9 Public Acceptance (Board Only Consideration) The Site Evaluation Committee will not gauge public acceptance. Instead, GMSD staff will survey the public and get that data to the Board for it to make a final decision.
Each considering factor is to be ranked in order of priority with safety being given the highest priority followed by location and accessibility. Cost and access to utilities were the lowest priorities with topography and size & shape falling in the middle.
During the discussion, Ms. Eoff suggested that the board be allowed to review the entire list of properties to make its final decision. Ms. Landers disagreed, stating that it was the work of the Site Evaluation Committee to narrow down the list to three or four choices. Ms. Jones asked if the Committee's evaluations and underlying research would be made available to the Board. Ms. Landers answered that it would, but was insistent that the Committee would choose the top 3 to 4 properties for the Board to consider in making its final decision. She went on to say that the Committee would do such a great job in evaluating sites that the public would fall in love with the final selection.
Ms. Eoff also recommended that the Committee mark the Winchester Road location off of its list. She explained that there was such a public outcry against this location that it should not be considered. Ms. Landers said the Committee felt it was best to review all sites including the Winchester location. She said it would remain on the list even though she did not feel it would be a top contender.
Another issue discussed was timing. The site selection decision is being geared toward the City's deadline of January 29th for the summer bond market. Ms. Jones questioned whether that meant a final decision would need to be made on the location by the deadline or if it would be sufficient to request an estimated amount for land acquisition ($3M) and construction costs ($24M). Ms. Landers said that the land must be selected by January 29th for the bonds to be issued. Mr. Cathey said that construction costs would be based on a rough square footage estimate. Ms. Jones asked why the acquisition costs could also not be estimated but Ms. Landers was emphatic that it the location site must be approved by January 29th. It was unclear whether she meant a board vote was sufficient or whether a contract must also be negotiated and executed by that deadline.
Speaking of contract negotiations, a concern arose over how the sales price could be affected if the Board made its final pick in a public forum. Mr. Cathey recommended securing commitments from the top property contenders before the Board made its final decision. Board members also wondered if negotiations could be done in executive session. Mr. Hoover said that the Open Meeting Act only allowed executive session in the event of pending litigation. Some of the staff said that other school systems went into executive session for contract negotiations. Ms. Landers commented that she remembered Shelby County Schools discussing contracts in executive session so Ms. Fisher said she would check with Debra Owens.
The next step for the Board will be to meet on Monday, December 5th to approve the prioritized list of criteria for the Site Evaluation Committee to begin its work of whittling down the current list of 15 properties to 3 or 4 sites. After the holidays, the Site Evaluation Committee will meet on January 3rd to score the 15 selected sites and choose the top 3 to 4 locations. The board will make the final evaluation and is expected to approve the new school location on January 17th.