Issues begin to crop up in SDPC

Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of a multi-part series of interviews conducted between Courier staff reporter Nicole Daughhetee and SDPC board trustee Jim Shelton, a former board chair.

Based on the public meeting in Dacusville, it was clear that the overwhelming majority of parents were not in favor of adjusting attendance lines in order to reassign future Gettys Middle School students to Dacusville.
Throughout his tenure on the SDPC Board, Jim Shelton says he has remained steadfast in his concern for the people he serves in Pickens County.
“It was clear to me that I wasn’t going to go out there and support some plan that, even though it balanced the books, was tremendously unpopular with the parents and the children. That’s just not the way to run a school system,” explained Shelton. “We heard people loud and clear, and I spoke to several parents that night and later days as well. The decision I made at that point was that we were not going forward with this solution for the population problem at Gettys.”
Still, the Gettys Middle School had yet to be addressed.
Shelton recalls that it was in late June or early July that he scheduled a meeting with Dr. Henry Hunt and Bob Folkman to ask one very simple question: “How could the SDPC create a second middle school in Easley by employing every available resource so there is not a major impact to the tax base?”
“What I wanted them to do was look at everything we already had. We already had a Gettys Middle School,” said Shelton. “You’ve got to remember this too, when we move Gettys to its new location on the old Easley High campus, there still was no resolution about what to do with the old Gettys campus. We hadn’t gotten to that part in the though process.”
Folkman, an asset to the SDPC about whom Mr. Shelton speaks very highly, took the task upon himself and came back to Shelton several weeks later. Folkman said a second middle school in Easley was doable, but there were some other issues with the building plan that needed to be addressed as well.
It was late July when the SDPC learned about the water and sewer infrastructure issues at both Daniel High School and R.C. Edwards Middle School.
“Brought to our attention by the office of school facilities and some other agencies was the problem that the water requirement for sprinkler systems and several other systems were inadequate given the current water supply,” said Shelton. “Not only that, we had to redirect our wastewater to a different location. It used to go to Clemson, but now it was going to have to run to Central.”
The total cost of that project was $1.4 million. The district had to add a new water tower, which a lot of people see next to the Daniel High School football stadium today.
“We had also run into a problem at Liberty High School with some of the athletic facilities,” explained Shelton. “There is a slab of granite — a granite shelf under where we were building — and in order to get a natural surface on the football stadium, we would have had to blast a lot of rock. That is a very costly prospect; not just for the blasting, but also for the removal and the disposal.”
Facing this problem, the SDPC began looking at artificial surfaces for some of the athletic facilities, which actually turned out to be a viable option and a cost savings in the long run. That said, there was an initial cost that residents were going to have to bare.
“The initial cost went up slightly, but over 10 years there was a payback on that. We agreed to go with an artificial surface at Liberty for football and the other three high schools were getting artificial surfaces for soccer,” said Shelton. “That pretty much was the consensus among the athletic directors as well, but it created for some additional cost nonetheless.”
These unforeseen variables were starting to put pressure on the budget even before anyone broached a conversation about Gettys Middle. On top of that, the SDPC had a technology refresh for the Promethean boards and other technology in the schools where people were starting to see a failure rate with those and some obsolescence in the software.
“The refresh had been scheduled for the year before, so we were already one year behind in funding the refresh,” said Shelton. “So now we have several pressures that are coming at us from several different directions. We’ve got existing issues as I mentioned with infrastructure and current projects. We’ve got a technology issue that has to be addressed and we’ve already let it go for one year. Now we have this other issue that we’ve never resolved. and that’s how to handle Gettys.”
So all of these things start converging at once and they are issues that cannot be ignored.