BY JOHN MULLEN
Ultimately, Councilman Steve Jones said, government works best when the people tell it what they want.
“This is how government is supposed to work — from the bottom up,” Jones said.
On Monday, many citizens of Gulf Shores spoke loud and clear. They packed the council chambers with an overflow crowd of parents and children that spilled out into the hallways.
They came to hear Kevin Corcoran of the Island Task Force for Education make a presentation in support of a Gulf Shores independent city school system. In the end, he asked the council to support helping fund a study to determine how much revenue would be needed.
Gulf Shores’ 2,700 students get lost among Baldwin County’s nearly 31,000 students on 45 campuses spread out over the largest county in the state, Corcoran said. He cited state law that allows any city that reaches 5,000 in population to form a system independent of the county.
“Gulf Shores hit 5,000 in the census of 2000, 17 years ago,” Corcoran said. “We’re the equivalent of a 40-year-old still living at home.”
Counting Gulf Shores, eight municipalities in Baldwin County are eligible. Corcoran said there are only seven others in the entire state currently in counties where there are no city systems.
The Daphne City Council on Monday commissioned a feasibility study on forming a school system, agreeing to pay $68,500 to K-12 Criterion Group.
Fairhope has flirted with the idea as far back as September 2010, when the city first heard a feasibility study by expert Ira Harvey. But that effort was abandoned in January 2011.
Talk about an independent Fairhope system was rekindled in June 2015, and in January 2016 Fairhope again commissioned a study, this time for $49,000 with The Akribos Group, according to city records. Officials said this was an education study and not necessarily a way to study formation of a breakaway system.
In Gulf Shores, Corcoran is asking the council to help pay $15,000 for a preliminary study by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama “to assist in calculating the revenue and expense part of the equation.”
Corcoran and his group have been making presentations to citizens during the past few months and have collected $12,000 toward covering that expense.
“This is far from a full feasibility study but is a possible first step,” Corcoran said.
An eager City Council seemed pleased with the presentation and is set to vote Monday on whether or not to proceed with the study.
“Our children will benefit, our community will benefit, our economics will benefit and our property values will benefit,” Councilman Jason Dyken said.
Councilman Philip Harris echoed Jones’ comments about citizens leading the effort for it to succeed.
“We have the platform and opportunity to put a vote before the community for taxes it will take to operate our school system. But y’all will be the ones to get this done if it is accomplished.”