MHS sports complex back on track

Jan. 19—Looks like the third time is the charm for a sports complex at Meridian High School as the city school board on Thursday accepted a bid of more than $8.9 million to build a combined baseball and softball facility, along with a much-needed administration addition and several upgrades, to the high school campus.

During their regular monthly meeting held at the central office, the MPSD Board of Trustees approved via Zoom accepting the low bid of $8,990,000 from Chris Albritton Construction Co. for the improvements projects, which will be funded through the $34 million school bond issue approved by city voters in August 2022.

The school board twice rejected bids last year for the sports complex due to the proposed project coming in over budget each time. They also previously rejected the high school campus improvements due to a high bid. Last fall the district worked with Dale/Bailey Architects, An Association to redesign the projects, combine them into one overall project, and bid it out again.

"We had some struggles getting to this stage," said school board President Sally Gray, referencing the prior bidding processes.

But, Gray said, the new sports complex project will be very exciting for MHS athletes since it will allow both the baseball and softball teams to play home games at the high school campus. For years Wildcats baseball has used Q.V. Sykes Baseball Complex for its home games while the Lady Wildcats have used Northeast Park Softball Complex.

"I think the community will be fired up, the students will be fired up to see this happening," Gray said.

The baseball/softball complex is expected to be completed in early 2025 in time for that spring's season.

Director of Operations Clay Sims said the district's perseverance in bidding the project finally paid off.

"I am pleased to report that with the three bids, we had three good, competitive bids," he said.

He said Dale/Bailey recommended going with the lowest of the three submitted bids.

Chris Albritton Construction, based in Laurel, has previously worked on the MHS campus, providing general contracting services for construction of the high school's ninth grade building.

"Mr. Albritton has a history in the district. He is the one who constructed the R.D. Harris ninth-grade building," Sims said. "We are certainly pleased to see his continued interest to work in the district."

Sims said one of the changes made in the project was to keep open Wildcat Drive, which serves as the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up route on campus, which helped reduce costs.

The improvements project is expected to be undertaken in phases and will include the construction of the combined baseball/softball field, bleachers, a field house and press box, concession stand and restrooms. The sports complex will be built in the vicinity of the old football practice field along Wildcat Drive just north of the tennis courts and across the street from Ross Collins Career and Technical Center.

Also included in the project will be the construction of a new administration addition near the ninth grade building, which will provide a single, secure entranceway to the campus, along with enclosed walkways leading to the main high school buildings. Secure fencing will be added to the entire perimeter of the campus along with a monitoring system and access control to exterior doors.

The fine arts building is set to receive some cosmetic renovations, but an addition to the building was scrapped during the redesign. Ross Collins will gain another entrance on the north end of the building, making it compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and meeting historical landmark designation approval. Covered walkways from Ross Collins to the main campus are also included in the project.

All of the bond issue projects were originally expected to be completed by December 2024, but skyrocketing construction costs have delayed several projects as they were re-bid to stay within budget.

In a separate order of business on Thursday, the school board also accepted a bid of more than $2.6 million from J&J Contractors Inc. to construct an additional classroom building on the campus of Crestwood Elementary School.

"This will gain us two classrooms as well as a multi-use larger space there at Crestwood," Sims said.

The project, coming in at a bid of $2,695,000, is being funded through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III Fund, which is federal pandemic relief funding included in the American Rescue Plan. The federal plan allocated more than $122 billion in relief to the nation's K-12 schools, one of the largest investments ever made at one time in federal spending to public education.

"This particular construction will be an ESSER III project to add classroom space for more effective social distancing to conform with the indication of the ESSER funding," Sims said.

Gray said the additional classrooms come at a good time with the increased enrollment at Crestwood due to the consolidation of the district's elementary schools at the start of this school year.

Sims said the new addition at Crestwood will go at the rear of the school building between the building and the new parking area on campus.

In other business at the meeting, the school board:

* approved a change order to close out an ongoing re-roofing project at Ross Collins with a credit of $232,347 because of costly complications from wet insulation discovered during the project. Sims said it would be more cost effective for the district to halt the project, then re-bid it due to the amount of wet insulation that has been encountered. The project is being funded with ESSER funds;

* approved paying architect Arjen Lagendijk with district funds for prior architectural services at Crestwood Elementary School because an internal review found he is not eligible to provide services under the ESSER program because the correct paperwork was not filed;

* approved Bailey Program Management to provide program management for all ESSER projects in the district; and

* approved Dale/Bailey Architects, An Association to provide additional architectural services on the ESSER projects in the future to ensure the district is in compliance with the program guidelines.

Contact Glenda Sanders at