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Sullivan school building program could cost $202 million

Rick Wagner • May 13, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — A proposed Sullivan County school building, addition and renovation program would require county bonds of nearly $202 million and be completed by 2018-19.

It also would generate more than $56 million in one-time capital improvement funding for the Kingsport school system and be accompanied with the closing or tearing down and rebuilding of 11 or 12 county schools and an operational cost savings of more than $2.1 million a year.

The proposal was presented at a Sullivan County Board of Education retreat held Wednesday at Northeast State Technical Community College.

The general idea — including building three new K-8 schools — has been discussed, but Wednesday was the first time the board reviewed projected costs, savings and architectural input on replacing aging school buildings officials said were nearing the end of their useful lives.

The proposal comes after the BOE, county commissioners and the public earlier this year balked at an earlier proposal to close selected schools countywide without a detailed plan in place to build new ones or renovate and add to existing ones.

The cost for the county construction would be $53.15 million for the first phase plus a 10 percent contingency of $5.31 million and $44.5 million plus a $4.45 million contingency for the second phase, a total of $107.41 million.

However, when Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn., shares of the funding are added — based on their average daily attendance — the price would increase to $201.93 million, with more than $56.5 million for Kingsport and more than $36.3 million for Bristol.

Phase one, from 2009-10 to 2013-14, would:

•Convert Sullivan North High School (an 8-12 school on John B. Dennis Highway) into two schools co-located on one campus: a 6-8 school and a 9-12 high school with separate entrances, gyms and cafeterias and a wall physically dividing the schools.

The renovations would cost $7 million and accommodate a projected 2017 enrollment of 1,011 students — 277 middle school and 734 high school.

Also as part of that proposal would be a conversion of Ketron Intermediate School in Bloomingdale into a pre-K-5 school at a cost of $6 million and annual operational savings of $434,011.

Kingsley, Cedar Grove and Brookside elementary schools would be closed. Savings would be $143,622.

An option presented in the proposal from Beeson, Lusk & Street Architects Inc. architect Don Solt would keep Brookside open and cut the cost of Ketron conversion and renovations to $4 million.

•Initiate $20 million in additions and renovations to schools throughout the county.

Phase two, 2013-14 to 2018-19, would:

•Build a new K-8 school in the East High School zone somewhere around Bluff City and Piney Flats. It also would demolish the older parts of Bluff City Elementary but retain the 2000 addition and add to it.

The cost for the new K-8 school — designed for 850 students with a projected 2017 student population of 783 — is $18.75 million. The savings are $528,608.

An addition to Emmett Elementary would cost $1.4 million.

Mary Hughes Elementary and Middle School, Bluff City Middle, and Weaver and Valley Pike elementary schools would be closed at an annual operations savings of $469,772.

County Commissioner Dwight King and BOE Co-chairwoman Betty Combs suggested making a larger K-8 school and closing Bluff City Elementary since it causes 30 to 45 minutes of congestion in Bluff City because of little space for parking. Commissioners Eddie Williams and Buddy King also attended the meeting.

•Build a new $18.75 million K-8 school in the Central High School zone to replace the co-located Blountville Elementary and Middle Schools, serving an estimated 770 students in 2017 with existing gyms, cafeterias, kitchen and some other areas reused for the new school.

The school system Central Office likely would relocate to the old middle school from its current home rented from the Sullivan County Regional Health Department in Blountville.

Akard Elementary near Bristol would be closed, and the existing Blountville Elementary and Middle Schools would be closed and parts not used torn down. The annual savings from that would be $564,431.

Among the schools getting $13.92 million in additions and renovations would be South High School at $1 million, Central Heights Elementary at $920,000, Holston Elementary at $1 million, Colonial Heights Middle at $2 million, Central High at $2 million, Indian Springs Elementary at $2 million, East High at $2 million, and Sullivan Middle at $2 million.

Also, maintenance supervisor Joe Mike Akard outlined $6.08 million of “bare bones” capital improvements including roofs and heating and cooling systems. He said the amount would be about $1 million less if the identified 12 schools were closed and proposed work on them not done.

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