Tonight, four representatives from the University of North Alabama will speak before the Florence School Board. Ostensibly, they want to convince the board to cease plans to build a new middle school on the old Coffee High School campus and to sell the property to them. Let’s look at some facts.
1. In 2010, the Florence School Board approached UNA and asked if the university had any interest in purchasing the property. The university said NO! The school board took the university at its word and initiated its own plans for the property.
2. The school board then began plans to rehabilitate the property in some manner. Over six years later, the university has come forward to say it’s changed its mind.
3. In 2014, community meetings were held in order to make further decisions about the property (renovate the old Coffee building or to tear it down and build a new facility). UNA said nothing.
4. The property is located in a residential neighborhood—not a good location for a large parking lot.
5. The property is home to a three million dollar gym belonging to Florence City Schools.
6. UNA president Ken Kitts has stated the property would be suitable for not only a parking lot, but for tailgating parties. Yes, he really did. So much for academics, let’s just make sure we have a place to tailgate.
7. UNA currently plays an average of five games a year at Braley Stadium. Assuming game and preparations take 12 hours (this is a high estimate), we’re talking 2.5 to 3 days out of the year that UNA would be using the property it’s seeking to buy, at least for any official events.
8. When the new middle school is constructed, approximately 70 parking spaces near the stadium will be lost. More than 70 could be gained if the university or the city school system purchased the vacant lot/mini mart directly across from the stadium.
9. UNA is not landlocked. It has, for years, consistently refused to look at adjacent property to the west of campus.
10. Kitts has stated he has spoken with school board officials one on one in order to avoid “public scrutiny.” Yes, he really admitted that. Is that not pathetic?
11. There are currently two grades in the middle school now housed in portable classrooms awaiting a new building. The building is scheduled to be completed by fall 2018. How long would these two grades be forced to attend classes in trailers if the board had to start over with a property search, traffic study, and basically new architectural plans.
12. Contractors have already sent in bids on the new middle school construction. These are set to be opened on February 23rd.
13. UNA board member Libby Jordan has stated she’s disappointed in the lack of transparency shown by the university. Good for Ms. Jordan! She’s been a stand up person throughout this whole crooked charade.