County Commission May Act As Soon As Next Wednesday On New Schools, Additions

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The County Commission may act as soon as next Wednesday on getting architects moving on new county schools and additions.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said he will confer with individual commissioners prior to the next commission meeting to try to get a consensus on which of six school priority building programs should go forward now.

He did not give a specific figure on how much money is now available.

But he did say there is not enough to do all six projects at once.

He said there were "three projects that make sense" for now, but he did not identify which three. 

The six are:

- A new elementary school behind the Ganns-Middle Valley Elementary that would replace the old school as well as Falling Water Elementary

- An addition at Wolftever Elementary School

- A replacement for the K-8 Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts to make it K-12

- An addition to Nolan Elementary on Signal Mountain

- A new school at Sale Creek

- A new East Hamilton Middle School

Two commission members said they were caught by surprise by the move for quick action and will likely need more time.

Commissioner Tim Boyd said, "I want to know right now how much money we're talking about and which projects it will fund."

He said, "The last time we approved $50 million for four schools, but only two were built. Wolftever didn't get a dime of it. Where did the money go?"

Commissioner Joe Graham said, "We had no forewarning that we would be making a decision next week. Where's the fire? Where's the rush?"

He added, "For us to make a decision on stuff that we don't have paperwork on, that's an awful big decision. This is an awfully big decision to make with no background information."

However, Commissioner Marty Haynes said it was time to get moving on the new schools.

Several speakers hit the condition of Ganns-Middle Valley and other older schools.

Supt. Rick Smith, at the start of the session, made a presentation on the school building needs. He said the school board had voted 8-1 to go forward with that list.

He said the board did not set a priority on which of the six should go first.

Commission Chairman Fred Skillern said a tax increase was not in the picture, but he said the county was able to free up enough money, including from paying off and paying down bond issues, to start on one or two school projects a year.  

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