FEMA deems original Clarkdale site OK for rebuilding
by Kathryn Dobies
February 13, 2010 01:00 AM | 3373 views | 7 7 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA - The Federal Emergency Management Agency has deemed the present site of Austell's Clarkdale Elementary School OK to rebuild on, according to a GEMA spokesman. The school was destroyed in September's flood.

GEMA spokesman Ken Davis said Friday that the Clarkdale site has been deemed by FEMA to be outside the 100-year flood plane and therefore able to be rebuilt on. The decision to rebuild a school on that site, Davis said, is now up to the school district.

"The current structure is definitely outside of the 100-year flood plane," Davis said. "But again, the September flood was of epic proportions."

Superintendent Fred Sanderson said the district is disappointed about FEMA's findings, but that he will still recommend the school be built on the alternative site adjacent to Cooper Middle School.

"We are disappointed in the preliminary opinion issued by FEMA, but we will not recommend to the school board rebuilding on the original site," Sanderson said in an e-mail on Friday. "The proposal for the Cooper Middle School campus is very viable and we plan to move forward."

District officials have already presented plans for a new school on the Cooper site to the board and the Clarkdale community. But at the board meeting on Wednesday, the district said it was still waiting to hear from FEMA regarding rebuilding on the current site. District leaders feared that if FEMA deemed the current site adequate for rebuilding, and the board voted to rebuild at the Cooper site, the district would receive significantly lower funding from FEMA, than the $1.5 million they hoped for.

Davis said funding from the federal and state disaster funds would be slightly lower should the district decide to rebuild on an alternative site. Davis said once FEMA assesses the building and establishes how much the school was worth before the flood, federal and state assistance funds usually make up 85 percent of what insurance didn't cover to build a new school on that site.

Associate superintendent, Dr. Gordon Pritz said the district expects to receive about $6 million from its flood insurance. Should the board vote to rebuild on Cooper, federal and state funds would only cover up to 85 percent of the county's insurance deductible. Davis believes that the district's deductible is $1 million. Any additions or upgrades to the school would be out of the district's pocket.

Davis also said that if the district were to rebuild on the current site that the cost to raze the property could possibly be covered by FEMA.

District leaders told the Journal Thursday that they were prepared to move forward should the district receive reduced funding from FEMA. Doug Shepard, who oversees the district's SPLOST program, estimated the district's plan for a new 61-classroom school would cost $18 million. Shepard said the district has adequate funding to proceed with the Clarkdale replacement school, and plans to use money from both SPLOST II and SPLOST III that was budgeted for "undesignated classrooms."

During the district's Feb. 2 meeting with the Clarkdale community, the district received an overwhelming response from parents to rebuild on a different site. Board member David Morgan, who represents the Clarkdale area, said he heard from many parents who don't want any chance of another flooded school.

Sanderson said he plans to schedule a meeting with FEMA to discuss what he calls the "preliminary opinion."

"The powerful images of the school completely under water last fall should be all the evidence we need that rebuilding on that site is simply not a reasonable option," Sanderson said.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 29, 2010
Didn't the area behind Cooper Middle School flood as well??

Yes it did.

water logged
February 17, 2010
FEMA needs to get a clue. Using their own maps, you can see the back of the school is within the 100-year floodplain, and the entire school is within the 500-year floodplain. More than half of the property is in the floodway, with the school itself less than 100 feet away.
Table for 3
February 14, 2010
I lived in the neighborhood across from Cooper for a while and it seems like a better site (higher ground) for building in that area. Austell in general has a tendency to flood - 100 year flood plane or not.

I'd be interested to know how FEMA comes up with Clarkdale's current site being outside of the 100 year flood plane. Is that based on the (very) outdated flood maps? Yeah, those need some updates too.
February 13, 2010
The folks at FEMA do not have child attending the Clarkdale school. What a bad decision!

Cobb County school leadership is doing the right thing in moving the location of the school. It is good to see my tax dollars being spent well.

Federal Failure
February 13, 2010
Shocker....the federal government deems a site that has perpetually flooded as "safe" to rebuild a school on. It probably all comes down to available FEMA funds, which are most likely being politically rationed. This is one fight the school district should continue.
David Phillips
February 13, 2010
If the school board does decide to build the new school at the Cooper site, they need to retain ownership of the old site, and turn it into greenspace. Either that, or transfer the land to the County, and have them turn it into greenspace. It needs to be a passive park for the Wesley Drive neighborhood.
In the neighborhood
February 13, 2010
I just saw the concerns in the previous article about the potential for flooding if Clarkdale is relocated to the Cooper MS site. For what it's worth, Cooper never even came remotely close to flooding last September, despite being wedged between both creeks and near flooded subdivisions. The land appears to be at a slightly higher elevation, with a thick grove of trees serving as a buffer for Sweetwater Creek.

As a prospective parent (my child is still a toddler), my concern is about the ease of access. The proposal has Clarkdale located behind Cooper, completely hidden from Ewing Road. In order to get to the elementary, parents would have to drive around the middle school on a long, narrow driveway. It seems like an easier solution would be to use eminent domain to purchase land making it accessible to Clay Road or Ewing Road, on either side of the church -- though that isn't politically popular. While the ease of access isn't an insurmountable problem, it does have the potential to be a huge hassle.
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