Sullivan BOE to state: We want BTES to serve new high school

Rick Wagner • Updated Sep 15, 2017 at 3:16 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Bristol Tennessee Essential Services instead of AEP-American Electric Power would serve Sullivan County’s new high school if the county school board had its way, the board voted 6-0 with one abstention Thursday night.

In addition, the school board got a look at the latest renderings of the as-yet unnamed school off Exit 63 of Interstate 81 and is honing in on some final exterior design details for a glassed-in two story area at the front of the school. The $60 million facility is to serve about 1,700 students, including all of the North and South high schools zone and much of Central High’s zone and is slated to open in the fall of 2020.

The BOE approved a recommendation by Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski to complete applications to make BTES the provider for both the new Sullivan East Middle School near East High and the new high school off Exit 63 of Interstate 81. At the suggestion of board attorney Pat Hull, she amended her recommendation to make BTES the board’s preference, which sets the stage for the school board to in effect intervene in the matter going before the Tennessee Public Utilities Commission.

“I think we are” expressing a preference, Hull said. “It might be well to included that” in the vote. All board members voted for the recommendation except Mark Ireson, who abstained. BTES recently installed a power pole adjoining the site and ran transmission lines over Interstate 81 and connected them to a transformer.

AEP filed with the commission seeking a ruling in its favor, saying a 1989 agreement among it, Johnson City Power Board and BTES give Kingsport Power, doing business as AEP-Applachian Power, the right to serve the new school site. However, BTES CEO Mike Browder has said that BTES is within its rights to serve the school because no power company has served the actual site of the school, although AEP has power serving residential homes that are part of the land the school system has bought. Browder attended the meeting, but nobody from AEP attended.

All three power providers are in the Tri-Cities Airport vicinity, and the agreement grew out of move by AEP to serve the Steadman Farm property when Kingsport annexed it.

During a work session with architects from North Carolina-based LS3P and Cain Rash West Architects of Kingsport, the board looked at options for the nearly 300,000 square-foot facility for the design of the two-story center glassed-in area that is to be at the entry to the school. The board informally settled on a stone facade for one side of that area but asked the architects to bring back some roof options at the next work session.


The front of the school as well as the football field will be highly visible from I-81, architect Mary Beth Branham and Rafalowski said. It also is to included a soccer field, band practice field, six tennis courts, a baseball field, softball field and space for possible one each future baseball and softball fields. It also is to have 1,168 parking spaces and a single entrance with the possibility of a secondary one in the future.

Dineen West of Cain Rash West said the plan is to have early site work go out for bids in early December and bid openings in mid-January. Site construction would start in late March and building construction is late June with a projected cost of $60 million to $62 million, compared to the original target of about $60 million. The project, along with the new $21 million to $22 million Sullivan East Middle School to open in the fall of 2019, are being funded by a countywide $140 million bond issue that also will fund Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn., school capital projects.

“It continues to get more exciting by the day,” Rafalowski said. “We’re starting to see these two buildings come together.”

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