The ongoing saga about the disposal of the old Weaver Elementary School property, which school system officials said would set precedent for a series of old schools to be declared surplus across Sullivan County in coming years, continued Tuesday night. The new West Ridge High and Sullivan East Middle — which are set to open, respectively, in 2020 and 2019 — will mean the closing of schools across the county.
SCHOOL BOARD SPLIT
In a 4-3 split on a motion by member Jane Thomas, the BOE decided to sell part of the Weaver property to a cemetery and two small parcels to adjoining homeowners, then offer the remaining five acres or so and building to a bakery operation. However, the bakery folks have indicated they wanted the school building and the land the Weaver Cemetery is to buy, not just the school building and immediate area.
“People are going to keep dying, so we’re going to have a long-term enterprise here,” Thomas said.
Voting to sell to the cemetery and the two homeowners were Chairman Michael Hughes, Mark Ireson, Thomas and Dan Wells. Voting no were Jerry Greene, Vice Chairman Randall Jones and Matthew Spivey.
Through a local real estate agent, the bakery operation bid on Plots A, the school site, and B, an adjoining field, for $9,523.81 an acre The bakery also bid on two small parcels adjoining local homeowners but has since said it would be willing not to have those be part of the deal. It still has the option of buying Parcel A.
Hughes said he’d like to see the community cemetery and homeowners get the parcels, but Spivey said the economic impact of the bakery also needed to be considered. He said the bakery offered more than the cemetery and the cemetery official indicated it had enough space for another 50 years as is. Spivey said other potential cemetery land also was available beyond the school property.
Hughes said it wasn’t a matter of “who we like” but of putting the community and its residents first. Ireson said he liked the idea of the school becoming a community center like the old Lynn View Middle School, now operated by the City of Kingsport, did in Lynn Garden.
LET’S GO BACK TO 1823
School board attorney Pat Hull said surveyor John Mize has gone back to 1823 deeds and done a preliminary survey of the Weaver property — with help from neighbors since the old deeds overlap and have vague references to long-dead trees and roads likely widened or relocated. Hull said Mize also determined the parcel listed as 10.5 acres by the Assessor of Property turns out to be only 8.674 acres.
“It’s not clear where the lines are,” Hull said.
Greene said he also was confused by not taking the highest bidder, although that is not required in disposing of surplus school property. The cemetery bid $15,150 on Parcel B, which the survey says is 2.612 acres, while the bakery bid $9,523.81 an acre on Tracts A and B combined, 2.612 plus 5.818 acres. Homeowner Jim Edwards bid $800 for .088 acres next to his house he’s mowed since 1968, and adjoining homeowner Eddie Huff bid $1,017 on .156 acres next to what had been his property. It has since been sold but the new owner is willing to go through with the purchase, Hughes said. The bakery is willing not to have Tract C and D.
Hull also said that one of the old Weaver deeds has a restriction that the land can be used only for a cemetery, church or school, but he said because of vague deeds it is impossible to determine which section that is.