Hawkins County seeks ways to trim $30 million school project

Jeff Bobo • Feb 19, 2007 at 11:18 AM

ROGERSVILLE - When the Hawkins County Board of Education meets with architect Don Solt on Thursday evening in a workshop session, it will be looking for ways to whittle down the $30 million price tag on its pending phase three building project.

The goal is to finalize the project proposal in time to present it to the Hawkins County Commission for consideration at the March meeting.

Last month, Solt presented the school board with two options for phase three.

One estimate has the new fifth- and sixth-grade school being built on the Church Hill Middle School campus, which would set the overall phase three cost at about $29.8 million. Another option calls for the school to be constructed at a new location, and that is estimated at $31.9 million.

Director of Schools Clayton Armstrong said Monday the board is hoping to pick an option during Thursday's workshop so that it can be approved at the March 8 BOE meeting and then forwarded to the County Commission's Budget Committee.

"Economically it would be much more wise to construct the new school on property we already own as opposed to some other locations," Armstrong said. "It would save us from having to find a new location and negotiating the purchase of real estate, and restructuring our bus routes, and it's the less expensive option by more than $2 million."

The overall phase three project entails construction of the new school, as well as additions and renovations to both high schools, Clinch School and Bulls Gap School. The new school will have 24 classrooms, while each high school would receive 12 new classrooms, Bulls Gap School would receive 13 new classrooms, and Clinch School would receive 10 new classrooms.

One cost-cutting measure that has already been discussed is eliminating the new football stadium at CHMS and simply making improvements to the existing stadium. The board is expected to discuss other cost-cutting measures Thursday.

But Armstrong said he doesn't expect any cuts to be made that would reduce the project's intended impact on the system.

"They are looking at each of the plans very carefully to see if there can be any cost-savings adjustments and to see if there are any additions that need to be made to the proposal," Armstrong said. "The board is looking to streamline the project, but works both ways. The main objective is for the additional classroom space proposed at each school to meet our long-range needs.

"Obviously this is a very costly project, and with the county growing so much we want to make sure that we get it right the first time and don't have to come back in a few years needing additional classroom space."

The current goal is to present the plans to the County Commission in March, but if there are major changes recommended Thursday that may be delayed another month.

If the project is approved by the County Commission, the next challenge will be looking for a way to pay for the project. Armstrong said the most likely route would be issuance of a bond, but some form of new revenue would be needed to pay that bond off for the next 20 to 30 years.

"If everything goes according to plan, hopefully within two years all the construction could be completed and our students in those new classrooms," Armstrong said. "That's a very optimistic timeline, and a lot of things can go wrong to disrupt it. But I believe the County Commission understands the need, and that our system is growing every year, especially on the upper end of the county.

"Aside from dealing with growth in the high schools, I think everyone is in agreement that Bulls Gap and Clinch are in desperate need of renovation and additional space, and something is going to have to be done for those facilities soon."

The Hawkins BOE workshop is scheduled to begin Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the boardroom at the new bus garage.

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