County, board to discuss failed venture

By Greg Gelpi

The joint venture between the county and the school system to construct an aquatic center could be back on again.

Clayton County and the Clayton County Board of Education parted ways on the joint venture in May when the county asked for additional money to accommodate rising building costs.

Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Crandle Bray will speak to the school board during a special called meeting at 7 tonight regarding the joint venture. The meeting will be in the Administrative Complex, 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro.

"There's going to be some discussion between Crandle Bray and (Superintendent) Dr. Barbara Pulliam," said James Conard, the school system's director of maintenance. "It could end up being very positive."

Although the school system began looking into building its own aquatic center and the county downsized its plans for an aquatic center, Conard said the two sides have continued to talk. Despite this, he cautioned that nothing is final until it's in writing.

With Bray "extending an olive branch," school board Vice Chairwoman Ericka Davis said it's "incumbent that the board of education meet him halfway."

"The reality is that it's all the taxpayers' money," Davis said, explaining that the county and school board must be good stewards. "I think the egos can be left at the door for those who want to do what is best for the children."

The school system had said it would use funds from its Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to pay for an aquatic center, and the promise should be kept, she said, calling the Bray meeting a "very positive start."

The division between the county and school board grew wider after the split. The county billed the school system $500,000 for its share of the costs already incurred in planning and designing the aquatic center.

The school board will also hold its third and final public hearing on the school system's millage rate at 6:30 tonight. The board will consider adopting the millage rate at the meeting after the hearing.