The County Commission on Wednesday approved the purchase of five parcels next to the current Ganns-Middle Valley Elementary School, which is 75 years old. School Supt. Rick Smith said a new school is planned at the site that will be a replacement for that school as well as the 101-year-old Falling Water Elementary.
The county is paying $555,500 for seven acres.
All commissioners voted for the purchase except for Tim Boyd, who noted that the price was $90,000 above the appraised value and said the commission earlier had voted not to proceed on such school projects until an issue about East Brainerd Elementary School was resolved.
Paul Parker, county real property manager, said costs for school land can be as high as 30-40 percent above appraised value. He said this purchase was 17 percent above the appraisal.
Officials said the county had been looking at another site 1.1 miles in the direction of Falling Water, but someone "bought it out from under us." Commissioner Fred Skillern said the county talked about that site for several years and "drug our feet" too long.
Commissioner Mitch McClure, who lives within sight of the school, praised the move. He said the school is at capacity and there is traffic gridlock because the school is so close to the road. He said the purchases will allow the new school to be built further from the road.
He said his 79-year-old mother attended the school soon after it was built.
He noted that the school is on sewers and the tract that had been under consideration is not.
Commissioner McClure, who is leaving the commission soon after being defeated in the primary, said he plans to give about $50,000 of his discretionary funds for the new school for the library and technology.
Commissioner Skillern said the other site was closer to the center of the two schools.
Supt. Smith said both schools are full, but he said Soddy Elementary has some space. He said about half of the Falling Water students are from Mowbray Mountain. He said the Mowbray students would be shifted to Soddy Elementary.
Commissioner Boyd quizzed Supt. Smith about the status of the current East Brainerd School. It had been the subject of a three-way deal involving the county schools, the city and the Chattanooga Housing Authority. However, the deal has never been taken to the school board.
Supt. Smith said it was decided to wait until two new school board members are elected on Thursday.
He acknowledged that the Ganns-Middle Valley/Falling Water project had not been taken to the school board either.