Orange Beach, Alabama, is getting a new high school and middle school this fall.

By John Mullen

August 12, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL – (OBA®) – Starting from scratch means starting from scratch as administrators at the new Orange Beach schools and city officials pitching in with financial help are finding out.

“None of us have ever started a school, none of them have ever started a school,” Mayor Tony Kennon said. “It was at the very best controlled chaos and it’s still chaos. You walk in and realize I don’t have trash cans and that type of thing.”

Orange Beach, Alabama, Mako sign outside of new school.Or, maybe other items that are essential to opening up a school. Students report to the new schools for the first time on Aug. 14.

“The calculators that are on there, several thousand dollars’ worth, there wasn’t someone there presenting that and we wondered why they didn’t need batteries,” Yolanda Johnson of the Orange Beach Education Foundation told the council at its Aug. 6 meeting. “We’re expecting several more hundred dollars in batteries to come.”

Johnson’s group is deciding how money donated by the city to the foundation is spent in the new schools. The city council pledged up to $300,000 as needed to the OBEF and another $300,000 to the Makos Academics Arts and Athletics Club to help with essentials for the new schools.

OBEF has just about gone through the first $100,000 and Johnson was back on Aug. 6 to request the second $100,000 as requests from teachers and others keep coming in.

“They’ve requested $200,000 and I would like us to fund $100,000 now and keep $100,000 in reserve because we’re really not sure where it’s going to go,” Kennon said. “If it comes to a point in time when we don’t have to have it somewhere else then we fund it if we need to for OBEF. There’s a lot of possibilities of where the money’s going.”

Johnson presented a list of items bought with about $83,000 of the first batch and told the council about how closely they monitor how it is spent.

“The first one that we tabled Orange Beach Elementary requested $21,000 for band equipment and we weren’t sure why they didn’t already have it,” Johnson said. “Our investigation went all the way to the superintendent of Baldwin County Schools. They explained the equipment that was being used at the elementary school was owned by Gulf Shores Middle School which had taken that back at the end of the school year.”

Even though the requests all come from principals Dr. Erika McCoy at the high school, Dr. Robbie Smith at the middle school or Ryan Moss at the elementary, they are still highly scrutinized.

“We have been questioning and we have been investigating where the money is going from the grant but also basically asking what happened to what was already there,” Johnson said. “Principals are signing off on the grant requests that are going to their schools before they even come to us.”

Council members were agreeable with the request but wanted to make sure it was being closely watched. They will formally vote on the request at the regular session on Aug. 20.

“We wanted Dr. McCoy and Dr. Smith to see what’s available and what the county is providing before we just write a check,” Councilman Jeff Silvers said. “We stressed that going through. We don’t want a whole lot of parents calling us and telling us ‘hey we need $3,500.’ We wanted it to be streamlined and vetted.”

Councilman Jerry Johnson, Yo Johnson’s husband, said expenses were expected to be higher because the schools are starting from scratch.

“To start up anything, you’re start-up costs are going to be a whole lot more than what your day-to-day costs,” Jerry Johnson said. “We’re all going into it and on Aug. 14 we want them to have everything they need to have.”

During the regular session, the council also:

  • Passed a resolution rejecting all bids for Turnout Gear for the Fire Department.
  • Passed a resolution authorizing the execution of a memorandum of understanding with the Baldwin County Commission for use of server rack space at the Baldwin County Commission Annex IV Building.
  • Suspended the rules to add the Fire Code Board of Appeals section to city ordinances.
  • Suspended the rules to pass an amendment to the city code to raise the gross annual income qualifying for municipal exemption.
  • Authorized the mayor to complete the settlement of a lawsuit with Joseph E. Blair stemming from the overnight flood of April 30-May 1 of 2014.
  • Reappointed Mike Contorno and Robert Barnett to three-year terms expiring in September of 2022. The council also appointed Tina D'Aversa to finish the term of Pete Peterson who passed away in May of this year. That term ends in September of 2020. Also appointed to the board were Tim Blackwell, Tem Blalock and Cecil Young through September of 2020 and Lindy Bradley for a term through July of 2022.

During the work session, the council also discussed:

  • Sponsorship of the 2019 Stan Mahoney Youth Fishing Tournament and a partnership with the Wolf Bay Watershed Watch. The annual tournament is out of Barber Marina and the city was asked for $500 to help with tournament expenses.
  • A resolution awarding the bid for Public Works relocation site clearing and grubbing. Public Works is moving from the current site where the school is being built to a parcel north of the Intracoastal Waterway near the Baldwin Electrical Membership Co-op on the Foley Beach Express. The council also set a Sept. 3 public hearing date for rezoning the parcel at Roscoe and Russian roads.
  • A resolution authorizing the purchase of a UTV for the Fire Rescue Department through Sourcewell in the amount of $15,204.42.
  • A resolution authorizing the purchase of three vehicles for the Police Department from state bid in the amount of $101,737.06. Two vehicles were damaged in crashes this year and one is a replacement for an older vehicle that is being taken out of service.
  • A resolution authorizing the execution of a task order with Sawgrass Consulting to provide professional engineering services for plan preparation and construction inspection for street fall resurfacing in an amount not to exceed $97,930.
  • An ordinance amendment to correct an omission relating to small wireless facilities.
  • Setting a public hearing date of Sept. 3 for Broken Sound PUD final approval. The parcel is in the southeast corner of Canal Road and Lauder Lane where developers hope to put a 40-lot subdivision.
  • Setting a public hearing for Sept. 3 on Hammock Dunes PUD, Phase II on the Gulf near Phoenix West II. There are going to be a total of nine cottage-type homes when the project is complete.