Sullivan BOE narrows list of school sites to 6

Rick Wagner • Dec 6, 2016 at 8:27 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — The most popular choice for a new Sullivan County high school is a site adjoining Airport Parkway and partly owned by Kingsport and across from a rock quarry, according to a Monday night vote by the county school board. A site behind the former Sam’s Wholesale Club fronting Interstate 81 was a close second, and one near the former Carolina Pottery shopping center placed third.

As for the top three sites for a new county middle school, the board’s No. 1 pick is the Weaver Pike/Harrington Hollow Road site near Sullivan East High School that also could accommodate a future elementary school, closely followed by the Thomas Lane/Hamilton Hill Road site paralleling but not adjoining U.S. Highway 11E in Piney Flats and then the Broyles Lane/State Route 394 site across from the Bristol Industrial Park and the Bristol Herald Courier printing plant.

The Board of Education voted at its regular meeting on its top three sites, in no particular order, for each school, with a called meeting to narrow the sites further set for 9 a.m. Saturday in the first floor meeting room of the health and education building off the Blountville Bypass. The board is looking to build a new high school to serve all of the current Sullivan North and Sullivan South high school zones and much of the Sullivan Central High zone, while a new middle school would replace all three middle school facilities in the Sullivan East High zone.

At that rare weekend meeting, the board plans to review conceptual plans from architects Dineen West of Kingsport-based Cain Rash West Architects and Paul Boney of North Carolina-based LS3P Architecture and narrow its focus to one or two sites for each project. The Sullivan County Commission would have that information at its Monday meeting, when it is to vote on a resolution by Budget Committee Chairman Eddie Williams of Sullivan Gardens and Commissioner Bob White of Bristol to move forward with a $140 million bond issue to fund the county projects and ones for Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn., schools.

Kingsport plans a regional science and technology building at Dobyns-Bennett High School and to buy North High/Middle for $20 million, while Bristol would build a new Vance Middle School.

The only public comment at the meeting was from Dan Page of the Colonial Heights section of Kingsport. Page said he worried about sinkholes and caves on the potential sites and said he thought the school board was moving too fast in selecting a site, the same concern raised in a work session Thursday by board member Mark Ireson of Colonial Heights.

However, other board members and Director Evelyn Rafalowski said the facilities study process was started 18 months ago and the idea of at least one new school dates back a decade, adding that they believed county commissioners wanted to know potential sites for the schools and the financing details. County Mayor Richard Venable announced at the Dec. 1 Budget Committee meeting the proposal could be funded by a 30-year bond paid for by a 9-cent property tax rate increase countywide, including land inside the cities.

In the voting, school board members had ballots of nine potential high school sites and seven potential middle school sites. They were asked to choose up to three sites for each project.

The Airport Parkway site, inside the city limits, led the high school ballot, as compiled by school board attorney Pat Hull, with seven votes. The Lynn Road site near the old Sam’s Club, where Second Harvest Food Bank is and next to the Shriner’s, got six votes. The 5586 State Route 126 site, adjoining a curve near McDonald’s and near Sullivan Central High School, got four votes.

The State Route 75/Holston Drive site, partly owned by the school system, got one vote. The Hamrick’s, Dunlap/Stevenson Hill Road, Adams Chapel Road, Muddy Creek Road and Childress Ferry Road sites got no votes.

In the middle school vote, the Weaver Pike/Harrington Hill Road site was the top choice at six votes, while the Thomas Lane/Hamilton Hill Road property got five votes for second place.

Also in middle school voting, the State Route 394 site and Broyles Lane/State Route 394 site each got two votes. However, since both sites used the same property adjoining 394 and then other parcels adjoining each other, the board at the urging of Ireson voted 7-0 to choose the Broyles Lane land recommended by the architects over the other parcel. That means Broyles/394 got third place, which Ireson said was reasonable because two members included the 394 site and two others voted for the Broyles Lane/394 site.

A Weaver Pike site got one vote, while the Weaver Pike/Paddle Creek Road and State Route 394/Weaver Pike got no votes. One write-in vote was cast for the Proffit-Baker site in Piney Flats along U.S. Highway 11E, but board Chairman Michael Hughes said it was simply too far away for Holston Valley Middle School students.

Hughes said he didn’t vote for either of the state Route 394 sites because of their longer distance from Holston Valley and likely higher asking prices than some of the others. The new school would also serve Bluff City Middle and the middle school portion of Mary Hughes School in Piney Flats.

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