Sullivan County Commission eyeing use of excess lottery dollars for K-12 construction

J. H. Osborne • Mar 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — A plan to use some of the state’s lottery dollars for building projects at the K-12 level is a likely topic of discussion today for the Sullivan County Commission.

A resolution supporting the plan is on the group’s agenda for a potential vote. It’s sponsored by county commissioners Eddie Williams and Joe Herron. If approved by the full commission, it will ask state legislators to support a proposed law to require that all “excess lottery funds above $250 million” be earmarked and funneled to county and/or city school systems.

According to the resolution, the proposed state law:

•Would require the state’s comptroller to develop and administer a grant program for capital projects for K-12 educational facilities using funds from the special account. Any funds that remain in the lottery account at the end of each fiscal year in excess of $250 million would be deemed excess lottery funds and be transferred to a “K-12 Lottery Capital Outlay Special Account.” The funds in that account would supplement, not replace, other resources for school capital projects.

•Would require any funds in the special account each year to be available as capital outlay grants to each school district, based on the ratio of each district’s average daily attendance, compared to statewide average daily attendance. If a school district did not get a grant in a given year, the funds would be credited to the district and included in the district’s grant availability the next year, and so on, until awarded.

School districts would be subject to audit by the comptroller’s office to check for compliance and establishment of matching-dollar requirements (based on need). Administrative expenses incurred by the comptroller’s office would be charged to the special account.

The resolution points out that in addition to school administrative facilities, Sullivan County operates a school system “with 16 elementary schools, one intermediate school, seven middle schools, and four comprehensive high schools” and “is desirous of lottery surplus funds being available for education capital projects.”

Another proposal before commissioners today is for installation of traffic signals at a railroad underpass on Old Summerville Road.

One signal would be placed on each approach to the one-lane concrete underpass that takes traffic on Old Summerville Road under some railroad tracks.

County Commissioner Darlene Calton is primary sponsor of the proposal, which carries an estimated cost of $13,000.

The lights would be installed by the county’s highway department, which has an employee dedicated to traffic signal installation and maintenance.

Calton said she submitted the proposal after being given a petition signed by residents of the area asking for the lights.

Because the underpass is so narrow — and situated where the road makes a curve — motorists now rely on horn-blowing to make sure the way is clear, Calton said.

What is proposed is to put a traffic signal at each approach to the underpass, Sullivan County Highway Commissioner Allan Pope said.

Both would show a red light, with only the signal on one end changing to green when a vehicle approaches that end, Pope said.

The signal will operate on a timed basis — changing back to red after a specific number of seconds.

Pope said he wasn’t sure of the exact time. County Commissioner Eddie Williams, a co-sponsor of Calton’s proposal, said it will be about 15 seconds.

Calton’s proposal for traffic signals at the underpass is listed on the commission’s agenda as “new business,” meaning a vote on the issue might not come until the group’s April meeting.

The Sullivan County Commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. on the second floor of the historic Sullivan County Courthouse.

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