Rhonda Thurman: It Is Time To Move Forward With The Sale Creek Construction Academy

Sunday, January 12, 2020

I am writing this letter in hopes of clearing up some confusion about the status of the Sale Creek Lions Club building that sits next to the Sale Creek Middle/High School. In 1999, the school system’s plan was to close Sale Creek High School.  The school was slated to be closed, not only for low enrollment, but the school’s campus consisted of only 10 acres which was not enough for athletic facilities and future growth. The 1999 plan to close Sale Creek also called for moving Sale Creek’s students to Soddy Daisy. Then, in the future and when Sale Creek had enough growth to warrant a middle/high school, the new middle/high was to be built on the 50 acres Hamilton County owns behind North Hamilton County Elementary.

To keep the school from closing and destroying the community, the Lions Club, (which had three members at that time), approached the school system to see if the 3.2 acres they owned next to the school would be enough to keep the school open. They were told it would. In March of 2000, a deal was made for the school system to purchase the 3.2 acres from the Lions Club for $25,000. An agreement was made to allow the Lions Club to continue meeting in the building for three years. After three years, with a 60-day notice, they could be asked to vacate. The agreement also stated if they were asked to vacate, the county would provide them a place to meet.

For the last year, Tobin Davidson, Sale Creek Middle/High, and I petitioned the school system for a building to house Sale Creek’s Construction Academy. Currently, students miss many days working on their construction projects (tiny houses) due to bad weather. This building will be located right across the parking lot at the back of the school and will allow students to work in the dry out of the elements. It will keep the houses from being wheeled in and out on a trailer each day. It will also allow for securing the tiny houses as well as the school’s construction equipment.

On June 24, 2019, Mr. Davidson and I met with members of the Sale Creek Lions Club to tell them that funding had been secured and the school system was going to build a pole barn on Sale Creek’s campus. We told them the plan called for it to be constructed where the Sale Creek Lions Club building currently sits. At that meeting, the Lions Club was told that they needed to make plans as to what they want to do with the building. There was talk of finding a piece of property and moving the building. We told them if the building was not moved when the school system got ready to start on the pole barn, the school system would tear it down.  

At a school board meeting a couple of months ago, Dr. Johnson told me that they were about ready to start on Sale Creek’s barn. I asked if the Lion’s Club had moved their building. He said no, I think the plan is to tear it down. I asked him to please hold up starting the project until I could talk to Mr. Davidson and the Lions Club. The Lions Club has been such an important part of the Sale Creek community, I did not want the building to be torn down until I was sure they understood what was going to happen.

Tobin and I scheduled a second meeting with the Lions Club on Jan. 2. At that meeting, we were told no decision had been made by the Lions Club as to what they wanted to do with the building. We emphasized to them that a decision must be made ASAP as construction was scheduled to begin the end of February.  After much discussion, some Lions Club members asked if we could give them to the end of March to do something with the building. Tobin called Justin Witt, Director of Maintenance and Operations, and asked if the construction could be delayed until the end of March. Justin granted Tobin’s request. When the meeting was over, everyone in the room left with the knowledge that if the Lions Club did not make a decision to move the building by the end of March, it would be torn down.

The Lions Club was told by fire hall representatives in attendance at the meeting that they could have their meetings and fundraisers in the new Sale Creek Fire Hall’s Community Room. Mr. Davidson also gave them the option of meeting in the middle school.

At the Jan. 2 meeting, Jim Reavley, who was the president of the Lions Club in 2000 when the Lions Club property was sold to the county, asked if he could address the crowd to clear up misinformation about the sale of the Lions Club property. He stated that had the Lions Club not sold the county their property in 2000, Sale Creek High School would not be at its current location. He said the decision to sell the Lions Club property was made by the three members (at that time) and was the right thing to do for the community in 2000 and he would do it again to keep the high school at its current location.

Let me reiterate, if the Lions Club had not sold the county their 3.2 acres in 2000, Sale Creek High School would have been closed. The Sale Creek girls’ softball field sits on part of that 3.2 acres, validating the reason the school system insisted that Sale Creek acquire more property to stay at its location. Now, Sale Creek has grown and needs the use of the rest of the 3.2 acres. The county is not kicking the Lions Club out of their building. The property was bought in 2000 for the school to use in the future. The future is now.

Mr. Davidson and I fought many times during the middle school construction to save the Lions Club building. But, keeping the Lions Club building in lieu of a building for the Construction Academy cannot be justified. It is time that the school system takes advantage of the investment they made 20 years ago for the students of Sale Creek. The Sale Creek community should be united, not divided, around Sale Creek High School getting a new Construction Academy building. The students at Sale Creek deserve this building. It is time to unite the community and move forward with this project.

Rhonda Thurman

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