Sullivan County school board members Michael Hughes and Mark Ireson made it clear Thursday they want to see a bid for a swimming pool at the new $60 million, 1,700-student high school to be opened in 2020 near Tri-Cities Airport, while County Commissioner Angie Stanley asked the price estimate for adding metal detectors at school entrances in light of the recent Florida high school shooting. Architects said they could provide information on both later.
SIZING UP ‘A BEAR IN THE CLOSET’
Although the seven-member board took no vote on the pool proposal in a work session and following called meeting, the group appeared to reach a consensus that the new pool be in a free-standing building instead of attached to the school, both to avoid delaying the planned 2020 opening of the new school and to afford easier community access for non-school use of the pool.
During a meeting break, architect Allen Taylor of LS3P said a rough estimate last year that the project would cost $5 million was in “2017 dollars.”
“We want to get an alternate bid to have a pool,” Board of Education Chairman Hughes said to architects during the work session. The request is a 180-degree reversal of course on the prior plan for the new school to utilize the swimming pool at the current Sullivan Central High School at Exit 66 of Interstate 81, about three miles away from the new school off Exit 63 of 81.
“Right now, it’s just a bear in the closet, something we’re afraid of,” Ireson said of the price of a pool, to which Hughes added, “It has become apparent we need to know how much it would cost.” Folks supporting a pool have spoken at county school board meetings and most recently spoke at the Monday County Commission meeting.
After architects Taylor and Mary Beth Branham of LS3P told the board that making a pool integral to the planned building would delay the approval process by Tennessee, board members said a stand-alone facility might be the way to go. It would be designed separately from the main building but could put out for construction bids at the same time as the high school or a little later. LS3P is working with Kingsport-based Cain Rash West Architects, represented by Dineen West, on the high school and Sullivan East Middle School projects, the later to open in 2019.
The board Thursday approved the low $18.349 million base bid on that project from BurWil Construction of Bristol, Tenn.
Taylor said the timeline is to get state approval of the high school plans in April, put the plans out to bid in May and receive bids in June, with an intregral pool design process alone setting the whole project back three months. In answering a question from board attorney Pat Hull, Branham said adding a pool could be handled as a change order for whatever contractor wins the high school bid or it could be bid separately.
Ireson and Vice Chairman Randall Jones said the cost savings of sharing common locker room space with other athletics facilities at the school likely would be more than offset by the better security and ease of having a separate pool building the public could access without going into the school building.