The project to revamp a portion of the old Montgomery Mall is now on hold. Interim Montgomery Public School Superintendent Margaret Allen says the school system doesn't have enough money to renovate the old mall.
Now, she's calling on city and county officials to help fund the project. Interim superintendent Margaret Allen spoke candidly about the school system's finances Wednesday at the regularly scheduled briefing held by the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce. In attendance were the mayor, city council, county commissioners and Montgomery's legislative delegation.
"If your interest [in helping] comes with trees, money trees, I'd welcome a conversation with you," she said to Rep. Joe Hubbard.
The Montgomery Mall project includes moving the system's MTEC program and Loveless Academic Magnet school to the mall. The school system already owns the old Parisians building in the mall complex, but the agreement to purchase the former JC Penny building has yet to be finalized.
Allen, who took over MPS after the forced resignation of Barbara Thompson, mentioned in October her desire to put on hold the move to the empty mall facility. At the time, Mayor Todd Strange chalked up the idea as a matter of timing, that Allen was new to the job and needed time to become familiar with the plans.
Now that Allen has taken several weeks to settle into her role, she says the system simply can't move forward without more funding. The project would cost millions of dollars.
Elected officials and the chamber of commerce have a large vested interest in the project, not only because it impacts education in the city of Montgomery, but because they strongly supported the technical training programs to build a qualified workforce. In their current locations, there is not enough room to add more training programs.
Montgomery Public School officials say nothing has been canceled when it comes to the project, but there just isn't a way to fund it right now.
"We're still just hoping to be able to work things out," Allen said.
Officials say the county commission will contribute $1 million each year. However, it's unclear how long that will last.
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange says city funds aren't out of the question either.
"We would certainly be willing to have that conversation. We certainly have helped in the past. We helped with Carver, we helped with Park Crossing," Strange said.
Former superintendent Barbara Thompson suggested getting a $30 million to $40 million bond issue to pay for the project.
Ever since she left, the bond issue hasn't been mentioned much.
However, Allen says the project won't happen by way of existing monies. A new revenue stream would be required with help to pay the debt each year.
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