District spends nearly $1 million on superintendent office

Alex Gladden
Fort Smith Times Record
The Paris School District will move into its new administration building by spring break.

The Paris School District is spending approximately $950,000 on a new administration building amid some opposition to the project.

Superintendent Wayne Fawcett said the move to a new administration building is necessary because the current building is in poor condition.

“The building is in just terrible shape," Fawcett said.

The building was originally built in 1946 and now has mold, leaks, and insect infestation. Fawcett also said the foundation is faltering.

“There comes a point where you just don’t want to throw good money after bad," Fawcett said.

It would have taken several hundred thousand dollars to put the building back in good condition, Fawcett said.

“It’s far exceeded its life expectancy," Fawcett said.

But Cory Wells, who sits on the school board, disagrees. Wells was the lone member who voted against the project when it came before the board in June of 2020.

“I just felt like that amount was way too excessive," Wells said.

Wells said he thought there were several projects that should have been made a priority prior to replacing the administration building.

The most pressing issue Wells saw was the need to replace the Paris Elementary School's roof. The roof leaks when there is heavy rain.

“That’s a top need," Wells said about the elementary school.

The Paris High School's roof also leaks and needs work.

“I think those come way before this administration building particularly at the price," Wells said.

Other issues he found more important were replacing the track, which is so filled with potholes that the school can no longer host meets; replacing school lighting with LED lights; and making updates to the stadium and other athletic facilities.

At the school board's last meeting, Wells was also the lone vote against spending $38,000 to buy new furniture for the administration building.

“I just felt like we could have reused a lot of our existing furnishings and saved our school some money," Wells said. 

Construction on the administration building began in June. Nabholz, a national commercial contractor that has a Fort Smith office, is handling the construction.

Construction is mostly complete. Fawcett estimated that the interior is 98% complete, while the exterior is 85% to 90% complete.

Superintendent Wayne Fawcett walks through the new administration building.

Fawcett expects to move into the building by spring break.

“We’re looking forward to it," Fawcett said.

Finances 

The district chose to finance the new building through a second-lien bond, which gave the district $1.1 million and 19 years to pay back the money.

Fawcett put this project in front of building a new bus shop. Although there aren't any estimates on how much a new bus shop will cost, Fawcett plans to use the rest of the $1.1 million in the bond and money from the district's building fund to pay for it.

He said a new administration building is more needed than a new bus shop.

“It's not in great shape, but it’s functional," Fawcett said about the bus shop, which was built in 1952. He later added “This building could fall in any minute, and I don't really say that too lightly” about the administration building.

The administration building is Fawcett's highest priority in terms of construction, he said. 

“It may not look like it when you first pull up, but it’s sort of lipstick on a pig. If you scratch it, it gets ugly real quick," Fawcett said.

The district bought the land where the new administration building is about five years ago. The new building is on Highway 22. Fawcett said he wanted the building in that area because the district doesn't have any other presence on Highway 22.

It will be a step up from the current administration building, which sits beside the Paris Middle School and can be difficult to find, Fawcett said.

The new building has five offices, two restrooms, and a boardroom.