Architects as of Friday will be able to officially apply to be the designer of one of four major county school projects.
Justin Witt, who oversees county buildings, said a newspaper ad will invite proposals on a new Harrison Elementary School, a new East Hamilton Middle School, a Snow Hill Elementary expansion and remodeling Tyner Middle and Tyner High in a project that will accommodate the move of Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts.
Mr. Witt laid out the selection process, which he said ends with three names for each project designer being given to the county mayor and the school superintendent for a decision.
Board member David Testerman said, "I do not like the fact that we give three names to two men behind a closed door and let them decide. That looks like a questionable, behind-the-scenes deal."
He said the school board should make the selections at an open meeting, adding, "I think we should be as transparent as we possibly can."
Board member Tiffanie Robinson agreed, though she said she did not want to delay moving on the projects.
Joe Smith, another board member, also called for more transparency in the process.
Mr. Witt said a review committee would select five finalists based on their qualifications and the quality of their work. It will initially have a list of five contenders, who will be interviewed, then cut to three.
The panel includes a board member and commissioner from the district where the project is located, the schools maintenance director, the county public works director, the county engineer and a member of the public.
He said the County Commission and School Board would also be involved in the approval process so that 24 people in all were part of the review.
That procedure was put into place during a 2004 building program, he said.
Mr. Witt called it "a very structured, very thorough, very open process that ends up with some very competent architects."
He said choices should be made by January and contracts signed by February.
Harrison Elementary should have a one-year design and 14-month construction period, while East Hamilton will also take a year to design and have an 18-month build time.
The Snow Hill work should take seven months to design and a year to build.
Tyner will take a year to design and be built in phases.
Mr. Witt said the schools will carry out a renovation of Howard Middle School in-house.