Kingsport BOE votes to move ahead with new D-B parking lot

Rick Wagner • Mar 5, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Board of Education voted 3-2 Thursday to move forward with the long-awaited parking lot project at Dobyns-Bennett High School this summer, minus one proposed roundabout and all speed bumps, but with speed tables.

However, the approved motion made by board member Pat Turner says the school system employees and the BOE will “do all in our power” to minimize disruption of parking for a drum and bugle corps competition July 7 at J. Fred Johnson Stadium and Fun Fest July 10-18, including the Crazy 8’s July 10. Also, an AAU girls basketball tournament is set on campus for July 3-7.

Fun Fest Director Lucy Fleming and Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jud Teague attended the meeting to express concerns and received assurances their events could utilize part of the lot during the project.

The parking lot project will reconfigure the lot to include landscaped islands, speed tables, concrete curbs and pedestrian crosswalks designated with brick-imprinted pavement to help separate traffic and pedestrians and to slow traffic.

BOE Vice President Randy Montgomery joined Turner and BOE President Susan Lodal, who seconded the motion, in voting for it — although Montgomery expressed reservations about the project. So did members Wally Boyd and Ron George, who voted against doing it this summer.

“I’m still just having a problem losing that number of spaces,” Boyd said.

The project was estimated to cause the loss of 75 of 434 current spaces, but school staff said that likely will grow to 116 spaces, which Boyd said was troubling to him given the heavy school and community use of the lot.

However, Turner said she believes about that many spaces were added on another part of the 2,000-student campus a few years ago.

Montgomery said it would be nice to have more concrete plans to look at for the adjoining Civic Auditorium parking lot still in tentative design, while George called for more collaboration between the city and school system and said there were “too many unknowns with this project for my level of comfort.”

“I want safety to be the number one priority on this,” Lodal said.

Based on comments by city engineer Hank Clabaugh and Mike Thompson, city traffic engineer, the project likely will be bid to include a bonus payment to the winning contractor for getting done early and penalties for getting done later, with all work to be done before students come back to school Aug. 3. Night and weekend work is possible, they said.

“If you put that bonus in, it could be the same cost as you’d have next year,” Clabaugh said, adding that some work could begin before school ends May 24 and likely be completed before the initial July 24 end date.

The cost estimate — including a roundabout near the Little Theater entrance and speed bumps the board voted to nix — was $674,100, including contingency and engineering fees but not $10,000 for work and supplies from AEP for lighting.

The actual construction estimate was about $560,000 before the speed bumps and roundabout near the Little Theater were removed.

“If a child gets hurt, it will be worth so much more than what we are spending on this parking lot,” Turner said of a project on the system’s capital improvements project list for three years but in discussion for seven years.

“It’s way overdue getting done,” Turner said. “I know (Superintendent) Dr. (Richard) Kitzmiller is ready to talk about academics and not parking lots.”

In addition, Clabaugh and Thompson said work could be halted at key hours or days, and about 150 spaces in the lot can be used with temporary striping after it is milled down while landscaped areas and a tear-shaped roundabout at a drop-off area are cut out of the pavement.

“We feel confident we can accommodate those events,” Thompson said.

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