The Sullivan County school system projects are a new 1,700-student high school near Exit 63 of Interstate 81 and a new 800-student middle school just south of Sullivan East High School. Kingsport plans a new regional science and technology building at Dobyns-Bennett High School and to buy the Sullivan North High/Middle schools complex for $20 million and convert it to a city middle school. Bristol, Tenn., plans to build a new Vance Middle School.
“We’ve done the first phase of planning with the architects,” Kingpsort Board of Education President Eric Hyche said late Monday morning after the commission’s 14-9 vote on a $140 million bond issue. Hyche said the system is in the middle of a second phase of planning and will have one more before the project is started. “I’m pleased. I think this helps us move forward.”
Hyche, who like other school system and other local officials wore One Focus, One Vision tags, said the jointly proposed facilities plan is unparalleled in the history of the three public school systems, despite two failed efforts from County Commissioners Pat Shull of Kingsport and Baxter Hood of Colonial Heights to defer the vote and look at other options.
For Sullivan County, the building projects are to be on land the school system doesn’t own, unlike the D-B land the city system already owns. Sullivan BOE Chairman Michael Hughes of the Hickory Tree area said binders, agreements that the owners won’t sell the property while the school system does due diligence with things like core drillings and a transportation study, will be pursued as quickly as possible.
“We will begin that process immediately,” Hughes said. Bristol, Tenn.-based Interstate Realty is the BOE’s buyer’s agent.
The county BOE’s chosen high school site is the Lynn Road site, adjoining Interstate 81 near Exit 63 and behind the old Sam’s Wholesale Club near Waste Management and the Shriner’s Temple. The site is 112 acres in three parcels with two owners. Jenelle Myers Carroll and Steven W. Carroll Jr. are listed as co-trustees of two parcels. One is 88.96 acres with a land market value of $511,000 and an improvement value (a house) of $75,500 for a total market appraisal of $586,500. However, land use value is $141,200 for a total use appraisal with the house of $216,700 for tax purposes. The second parcel is 20 acres with a land market value of $134,200 and total market appraisal of $134,200 but a land use value of $34,700 for tax purposes.
The third parcel is owned by Rebecca Carroll Barnett and Nelson D. Barnett. It is 1.03 acres with a land market value of $12,300 and an improvement (mobile home) valued at $31,600 for a total market appraisal of $43,900. So the combined county tax appraisal for these three parcels is $764,600, although that is not necessarily an agreeable price for either party.
The BOE’s chosen middle school site is the Weaver Pike/Harrington Hollow Road site, near Sullivan East and with enough room to build an elementary school.
The 69.14 acres is owned by Joseph Isaac Fleenor in two parcels. One is a 15.23-acre tract closest to East with a land market value of $91,800 and no buildings, but a land use value of $19,200 upon which property taxes are based. The second is 54.18 acres with a land market value of $331,600 and improvements of barns and sheds at $16,700 for a total market appraisal of $348,300. However, the land use value is $93,300, which when added to the improvement value is $110,000 for tax purposes.
Most of the opponents of the plan during public comment and during later discussions by the commissioners centered around the high school plan, which is to shift students from the Sullivan North, South and much of Central high schools to the new school, with about 250 of the remaining Central students being redrawn to Sullivan East. Kingsport will take over North, while South and Central are to become county middle schools, allowing the closing of some existing middle schools.
Among opponents of the plan were Sullivan County school board member Mark Ireson of Colonial Heights. He voted for the middle school site at the Dec. 10 board work session, saying that school was needed, but abstained on the high school site.
Former school board member Todd Broughton also spoke against the plan.
Among proponents of the plan were Kingsport City Manager Jeff Fleming Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Miles Burdine.
CeeGee McCord of Eastman Chemical Co. also spoke in favor of the plan.