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Decatur builds Beacon Municipal Center
by Bridgette Bonner
May 15, 2013 01:04 PM | 2965 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Keith Lee, Kiawana Kennedy, Kecia Cunningham and Gregory White at the center.
From left, Keith Lee, Kiawana Kennedy, Kecia Cunningham and Gregory White at the center.
Decatur officials celebrated the groundbreaking of the Beacon Municipal Center last week, allowing the police department to centralize and an elementary school to reopen. The center will house a new police department building, a renovated Ebster gym and active life center and the central office for City Schools of Decatur.

The $38 million budget for renovation also includes a new storm water management facility under Ebster Field.

The project is funded primarily by bonds, and in part from the city’s fund balance and revenues from the Homestead Option Sales Tax, according to Hugh Saxon, deputy city manager.

The City Schools of Decatur central office staff works out of Westchester Elementary, which will turn back into an elementary school with the completion of the new center, according to city spokeswoman Linda Harris. The purpose of the renovation project was to reopen Westchester, Saxon said.

The school district plans to open Westchester Elementary in August 2014, according to spokeswoman Heather Borowski. Students zoned for that area are currently at Oakhurst and Clairmont Elementary schools. District officials have not decided if opening Westchester will result in rezoning or if the school will be open to anyone who lives in Decatur and chooses to attend Westchester, Borowski said.

Westchester renovations include making sure technology is up to date, cleaning, painting and turning the dormant kitchen into a working facility. The district officials will also need to purchase furniture for the expected 260 students. All renovations are possible through an $18 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax IV fund, rather than dipping into the district’s general fund, Borowski said.

The police department was all centralized at the old Beacon school before the renovations began, but there was not enough space in the city to keep them together through the process, Saxon said. The Beacon project completion will centralize the department again.

“The police have moved to three different buildings downtown,” Harris said.

“The 911 dispatch is on East Trinity Place and administrative offices are in the Wells Fargo building, and the municipal court is at the Calloway building. All spread out.”

Saxon said the [Beacon Municipal Center] building was a separate but equal school in the 1950s, and when the schools integrated, the building became the police headquarters, neighborhood playhouse and recreation center.

“The [Ebster] recreation center will be renovated and expanded, and the old classrooms will become the [Schools of Decatur] central office staff’s place,” he added.

The entire project is scheduled for completion in late spring of 2014.

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