Hughes: Entire Sullivan BOE supports high school pool if money available

Rick Wagner • Mar 4, 2018 at 6:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Board of Education Chairman Michael Hughes says he’s not the only one of seven school board members who support having a pool at the new 1,700-student high school if funds are available. An architect’s estimate last year was that a pool would add $5 million to the cost of the school, which is shooting for a budget of $60 million.

“For the record, before the meeting was started and once it began” three other board members asked about getting a pool cost estimate from architects before and during a break at a Feb. 22 work session, Hughes said at a Thursday BOE work session. He said he was responding to social media postings and newspaper reports on the issue.

Although Hughes and board member Mark Ireson have been the most outspoken in favor of getting a cost estimate and possible bid on a free-standing pool and building on the new campus off Exit 63 of Interstate 81, Hughes said board members Dan Wells and Vice Chairman Randall Jones asked before the work session. “Mr. (Matthew) Spivey asked at break,” Hughes said. The board met with architects in the Feb. 22 work session and took no vote, but Hughes asked the architects for a free-standing pool building plan and a cost estimate.

“I don’t want it to sound like it’s only my idea,” Hughes said earlier in the week. “It’s not just me and Mark.”

Hughes said the pool was not in the initial plans because of concerns about expenses but that with reasonable bids on the new Sullivan East Middle School project and a lower-than-expected mass grading bid for the as-yet unnamed high school, it is possible extra money will be available for a pool. Even if that is not the case, he said money might become available later.

“There’s not been a huge change in policy. We’ve had some bids come in lower than we thought,” Hughes said Thursday, emphasizing that the request for a pool estimate was not a 180-degree turnaround. “I think everyone on the board would be in favor of having a pool if we could afford it.” 

A pool supporter spoke to the board last year saying the new school needs a larger pool than the Sullivan Central High one three miles away that was planned to be used by the new high school swim team. Pool supporters and those concerned about the new access road planned for the new school also spoke out at a Feb. 20 County Commission meeting.

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