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Sullivan BOE must renovate Blountville Middle or build new school

CHRISTAN M. THOMAS • Feb 13, 2007 at 9:48 AM

Blountville Middle School principal Larry Hall walks past the tarp placed in the middle of the second floor hallway to block students from entering the area. Erica Yoon photo.


BLOUNTVILLE - The Sullivan County Board of Education has two choices when dealing with structural issues at Blountville Middle School - retrofit the building or build a new one.

That was BOE Chairman Larry Harris' reaction after reviewing a formal, written report on the building. Steve Wilson of Spoden and Wilson Consulting Engineers, the firm hired to inspect the 1932 section of Blountville Middle School after concerns were raised over sagging floors, presented the report during a special called work session Tuesday.

"The board is faced with the challenge of fixing it (the 1932 section of the school) in a safe manner, getting some life out of the building, or building a new building," Harris said. "It's pretty short and to the point. You've got two choices."

According to the report, "the first floor framing system and the second floor framing systems both have deflected and sagged considerable over the years, with the second floor joists deflected and deformed precariously close to the interior face of the exterior multi-wythe brick walls…

"Of the most immediate concern is the potential loss of bearing within the second floor joists, which … resulted in our recommendation to cease occupancy in the 1932 building structure."

The findings, Wilson said, were based on four separate inspections of the facility, which revealed the full extent of structural instability.

Based on their observations of the building, Wilson's report recommended immediate repairs as a short-term solution to restore occupancy to the building.

•Install new steel support framing.

•Provide "sister joists" alongside existing joists.

•Re-establish cross-partitions, which were removed from the building. This repair, he said, could cause the need to reconfigure classroom spaces.

After the repairs, Wilson said he expects the building life expectancy to be 25 plus years. The time frame for the repairs, he said, would be approximately six to eight months, and would, therefore, affect the 2007-2008 school year.

Wilson said he expected the repairs, as well as floors and other incidentals to be in the range of at least $200,000.

Harris said now the BOE needs to look at cost figures for the repairs as well as the possibility of building a new structure, and which of those options would be most feasible. Director of Schools Glenn Arwood said he would have a progress report by the next regular BOE meeting.

At least one board member expressed support for looking into a building program as a result of the findings.

"I have received some input from folks out in the community," said BOE member Ron Smith. "Most of those folks have indicated their desire for us to really look at building a new facility at Blountville. … I would like us to look at that possibility to see if that's an option because there is a lot of support in the community for building a new school."

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