Members of Salem City Council and the Salem School Board gathered this earlier this week to turn some ceremonial dirt. During one of the few times this week when rain was not falling, the city’s two governing bodies held a groundbreaking ceremony in front of Salem High School. G&H Construction is currently overseeing a $27 million renovation of the school that originally opened in 1978.
The COVID-19 crisis sent students home from the building in March, but there have been several silver linings, as a result of the pandemic. With students out of the classrooms, construction crews have been able to accelerate their work and not worry about making too much noise and disrupting classes. In addition, the bond market turned in Salem’s favor for this project. The City issued bonds on May 27 for its 2020 General Obligation Public Improvement and Refunding projects and the winning bid was Wells Fargo with an interest rate of just 1.45 percent.
“We were able to get work started early and we were able to secure a very favorable borrowing rate, so some things have worked out despite all of the craziness going on these days,” says Salem Mayor Randy Foley.
The city received a AA+ rating from Standard and Poor’s and that rating, along with the timing of the sale, helped the city significantly. Funding the high school renovation at this low rate could potentially save taxpayers millions in the future.
On the construction side, G & H is now two months ahead of schedule. Roof work is well underway, the old carpet in the hallways is gone and the aged ceiling tiles have been removed. A new sprinkler system is being installed in the ceilings and work on the polished concrete floors in the classrooms is also well underway.
“It always comes back to leadership that matters,” says School Board Chairman David Preston. “The administrators and the teachers at Salem High School got us from a price tag and a plan that didn’t make sense to one that we can live with and afford. This has been quite a journey and we couldn’t have done this without City Council’s support.”
The project is scheduled for completion by the fall of 2022.
“Arguably no high school means more to its citizens in this region or likely the state than Salem High School does,” says Foley. “There is a lot of pride in this city, and it is great for all of us to get this project underway."