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School board in talks to purchase buildings
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The Dawson County school system's central office may soon relocate downtown.

The local school board came out of executive session Monday night and announced its interest in buying 2.5 acres at 28 Main St., the former home of Community & Southern Bank.

There are two buildings totaling 13,700 square feet on the site. Under the proposal, the former bank building would house the central office, while the community building would be used for teacher training and meetings.

A new central office was among the projects voters approved in November 2009, when they agreed to a five-year extension of the 1-cent sales tax for education.

The school district's existing administrative facility on Allen Street is 6,750 square feet. The move downtown would also offer more parking, an increase from 24 spaces to more than 100.

After a 30-minute executive session following their monthly meeting, the board voted 3-0 to authorize Superintendent Keith Porter to negotiate with the bank. Board member William Wade recused himself due to his employment at a local bank.

"The board has given approval for us to negotiate a price up to $1.3 million," Porter said. "We've been in discussion with [the bank] for quite some time, so it's hopeful that we can reach an agreement, that a contract can be drafted and we can get approval for the contract at a future board meeting."

Porter noted the funds for the purchase would come from the sales tax for education, known as ELOST.

"We can't use these ELOST dollars to pay teacher salaries and benefits," Porter said. "If we had a choice, we would be using this money to put back in those calendar reduction days.

"[The referendum] passed with 77.7 percent of the voters in favor of this. What we've tried to do is complete all of the essential projects for our students first."

According to Porter, funding from the current sales tax has gone toward renovations at Blacks Mill and Robinson elementary schools, as well as construction of Hightower Academy.

The money has also equipped all of Dawson County classrooms as 21st Century and increased safety at the Black's Mill and Kilough elementary schools, as well as the high school.

In addition, Porter said the funds have upgraded athletic facilities at the high school and Dawson County Middle School and added "tremendous amounts" of computer technology.

"We've taken care of many, many projects that were essential to us," he said. "Upgrading the transportation fleet has been a major issue that we've wanted to handle and we've purchased new busses over the past two years and we plan to purchase more."