Construction on the Madras project is progressing rapidly, and the gym at the historic school is set to be open in time for the March 24 presidential primary.
The gym is proposed to be the new voting precinct for the Madras community, according to Eddie Whitlock, Coweta County associate administrator.
At a project update meeting Thursday, Whitlock, other county officials and the consultants working on the project discussed the remaining gym work as well as the first phase of outside work. The schedule agreed upon at the meeting has the project advertised for bid on Aug. 1 and the gym and first phase of outdoor improvements being ready on Feb. 1.
The outdoor work includes a pavilion with picnic tables, a “tot lot” playground and a paved walking path.
A significant amount of the work will be done by county forces, including paving of the eight-foot-wide walking path.
The biggest holdup for the project will be getting the massive mechanical units to provide heating and air conditioning in the gym. Those types of units are usually built when they are ordered, Whitlock said. There is a lot of demand currently and major manufacturers are backed up. “We’ve got a lot of orders in front of us,” Whitlock said.
The gym itself wasn’t in bad shape, Whitlock said. The original floor needs repairs in a few places, but most of the floor is good and will only need to be polished, he said. The original light fixtures will also be reused.
The gym will have exposed ductwork in the ceiling for heating and air conditioning, though the A/C will be more to make the temperature in the gym bearable than to make it cool. “You’re not going to get 68 degrees in here. It’s too big of a space,” Whitlock said.
The gym’s stage is also in good condition, and there will be bathrooms, showers and lockers in the former locker rooms behind the stage, as well as handicapped-accessible bathrooms up front.
Coweta County Recreation Director Jim Gay said the plan is to use the gym for “open gym,” for the most part. The department currently has three gyms – Temple Avenue, Clay-Wood and Hunter, and those gyms stay busy. Girls volleyball leagues are running three seasons. “We’re kind of running out of space,” he said.
Gay has a personal connection to the Madras gym – he used to play basketball there.
He foresees the Madras facility as being mostly used for passive recreation and open gym. “We won’t have a lot of programming out here. We won’t run sports leagues,” he said.
Gay said the department will probably begin utilizing the gym after the presidential primary.
The department doesn’t currently have a rental policy for pavilions, but Gay expects the new pavilion at Madras to be popular, and the department may set up a rental policy.
Gay said the stage might be available for local schools to use for performances.
“I’ve got a feeling that once this place gets going, people will want to use it,” he said.
The main building of the historic school house will be used as a community center with some classroom space, and a new early voting location for the county, Whitlock said. There is also a stage, smaller than the gym stage, in the main building's former cafeteria.
There’s still a significant amount of work left to be done on the main building, and Whitlock estimates that completion is at least a year off.
The historic Madras school opened in 1935 and closed at the end of the 1988 school year. The Coweta County School System used it as offices and storage for several years, but in 2014, the school system was set to demolish the school. Madras alumni, concerned at the loss of their old school, began to work with the school system and Coweta County on a plan to save it.
Eventually, Coweta County and the school system entered into an agreement to swap county-owned property near the current Madras Middle School for the historic school site, and the plan to transform the historic school into a community center was born. Several additions to the school were built over the years, and those portions of the school were demolished, with only the original school building and gym being restored.