Pictured from left to right are: John Riley, president and CEO of Cullman Savings Bank; Shane Barnette, superintendent of Cullman County Schools; and Steve Glasscock, CEO and chairman of Merchants Bank.
CULLMAN – Special Projects Coordinator Dr. T.J. Franey of the Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE) has just announced the awarding of $5.535 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education's Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program to Cullman County Schools, to be used for renovations and repairs, as well as facility upgrades, at local schools.
These funds will be used to repair and replace school roofs, and to upgrade HVAC and electrical equipment at nine county facilities: Cullman Area Technology Academy/Career Center, Good Hope High School, Vinemont High School, Fairview High School, Hanceville Middle School, West Point Elementary School, Welti Elementary School and the Cullman Child Development Center. No new construction is included in the project; according to CCBOE Superintendent Shane Barnette, QZAB funds can only be used for renovations and upgrades of existing facilities.
Speaking to the Tribune, Barnette says that the first project will be re-roofing the buildings at the Technology Academy/Career Center. That facility will also receive electrical upgrades to keep up with the new technology being used inside. Shortly afterward, roofing and electrical upgrade projects will begin in all the listed schools.
In the CCBOE press release issued Monday, Barnette shared, "I am so thankful and excited about this QZAB project and our local partnerships. I really appreciate Dr. Franey's efforts in spearheading this project which will greatly benefit Cullman County Schools. These QZAB funds will allow us to complete projects that are listed on our capital plan up to 2020."
QZAB provides 10- to 25-year zero-interest loans to schools and systems, for facility renovation, equipment upgrades, increasing energy efficiency and use of renewable energy, and other uses. For a school to qualify, more than 35 percent of its students must qualify for reduced or free lunch programs. According to Barnette, CCBOE's loan will be paid off over the next 10 years with capital funds received annually from the state. Receiving those funds in a block, as opposed to the annual state disbursement, will allow the needed renovations to be done fairly quickly, instead of being completed piecemeal over several years.
QZAB requires that local businesses or nonprofits match 10 percent of the loan amount, and CCBOE has quite a few lined up:
Cullman Savings Bank, Merchants Bank, Peoples Bank of Alabama, Wal-Mart, REHAU Automotive LLC, Cullman Regional Medical Center, 4D Farm
The Link of Cullman County, Inc., Cullman Area Workforce Solutions, Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS), Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, Welti PTO, Blessings in a Backpack, Hanceville Knapsacks for Kids, Hanceville Civitan Club, Hanceville Culture Club, Hanceville Lions Club
Churches (most are partner groups in the knapsack and backpack organizations above):
Temple Baptist, Desperation Church, West Point First Baptist, Bethlehem West Baptist, West Point Baptist, Hanceville First UMC, Hanceville First Baptist, Trinity Lutheran, Stouts Mountain Baptist, Center Hill Baptist, Pleasant Grove UMC
In the press release, Franey stated, "We are very appreciative to the State Department, Cullman Savings Bank, Merchants Bank and all of our community partners for their efforts in securing the QZAB funds that will provide much needed renovations to our schools."