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Editorial - Commissioners still trying to undermine school

• May 10, 2019 at 6:00 PM

When members of the Sullivan County Commission demanded the county school board halt construction of West Ridge High School and present the commission with funding information, they were provided the information and therefore there was no reason to stop construction.

But then commissioners complained that since the school won’t have a swimming pool, it is underfunded and 16 members voted on a resolution to stop work. They could have voted to give the school board the money to build a pool, but ensuring West Ridge has a pool isn’t their point. Some want political cover. Some oppose the school and will continue to do so. Clearly, nothing will change those minds.

The six commissioners who opposed that resolution are to be commended. The vote was useless since the school board can and will ignore it. The rest supported that resolution even knowing that if it had any force, it would increase the cost of West Ridge and throw into turmoil the whole of the school renovation and construction plan, possibly leaving students to lose a year of school since there would be no place to put them with North High now the property of Kingsport. And it also might have triggered lawsuits over signed construction agreements.

It’s a shame that the school board has to put up with these childish antics. And it’s a further shame that instead of helping build confidence and support for the newest and largest high school the county has built, commissioners are continuing to undermine it.

Kudos also to Board of Education Chairman Michael Hughes. “I have no intention of stalling or holding up the project,” Hughes said. “Contracts have been signed. People are on the job site. We’d be liable for damages if we did.”

The commission’s vote “is not binding on us in any way,” Hughes said. “They don’t have the authority to put it on hold. They’ve been provided with” the information they requested, Hughes said of financials about West Ridge. “They’ve been given everything they’ve been asking for.”

One commissioner wanted construction halted because the school will have a grass football field rather than artificial turf. Oh, whatever shall be done? Commissioner Angie Stanley amended the resolution to ask for a state transportation department study on access to the new school and that construction should be stopped until that study was complete and yet in the same breath said, “We cannot legally sit here and stop this plan. Everything is done and in motion.”

West Ridge High is under construction. Yet the Sullivan County Commission continues to spend inordinate amounts of time in futile attempts to derail the project even as some acknowledge that futility. In the same county, we have a jail that is overcrowded and is a disaster waiting to happen.

Yet that same commission continues its head-in-the-sand approach to a jail problem resolution. It’s time to move on, commissioners. The jail issues you face pale in comparison to any opposition to the school.

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