A1 A1
Education
featured
Former Colonial Heights Middle could have at least three suitors

KINGSPORT — The former Colonial Heights Middle School is drawing at least three potential purchasers even before Sullivan County Schools declares the property surplus.

Blountville-based Tri-Cities Christian Academy, one of three schools in Morristown-based Lakeway Christian Schools, and Kingsport City Schools are expressing preliminary interest in acquiring the building for educational purposes.

In addition, businessman and bail bondsman Allyn Hood wants to use the property for youth sports and a community center/senior center.

The Christian school system might use the Colonial Heightsbuilding as an elementary, while the Kingsport system might use it for an elementary or a middle school, although the city school board president said that would depend on whether the property is large enough.

Asked if his system was considering the site, Lakeway Christian Schools Executive Director Bob Brown said, “We have had no formal discussions with them (Sullivan County officials). We continually are looking at a variety of options.”

Brown said one option is to use the existing Tri-Cities Christian Academy site on state Route 75, near Tri-Cities Airport, to build a new elementary school, leaving a 200,000-square-foot facility to be built near Tri-Cities Crossing off Fordtown Road as a grades 6-12 school.

“The decision to leave the Blountville campus has not been made by any stretch,” Brown said. “We would be very interested in looking at that Colonial Heights property.”

Interim Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said the county’s school board hasn’t formally declared the Colonial Heights property surplus.

Board of Education Attorney Pat Hull recently told the school board that title, survey and appraisal work was continuing on the former Colonial Heights and Blountville Middle and Elementary schools.

Michael Laisure, a Piney Flats businessman, has expressed interest in the Blountville campus. He purchased the former Bluff City and Holston Valley middle schools and is turning them into nonprofit centers for youth sports and other operations.

Kingsport Board of Education President Jim Welch, an alumnus of Colonial Heights Middle, said as the city school board works on revamping its strategic plan, the building could be a piece that helps solve a puzzle if growth occurs in that area.

“There’s been informal discussion about it,” Welch said.

“I’m not sure how committed about it that is,” he added. “I would certainly be interested in thinking about that property before anything else is done with it.” He said city education officials would be remiss not to consider the site for some use.

Still, Welch said he would think the Kingsport school system would be interested in using the land for a new building, rather than operating the 1957 building with a leaky roof.

Meanwhile, Hood, asked if his project would be a nonprofit, said no and that he would contribute most of the necessary funds.

“I’m looking at having a youth sports facility and a community center thing too,” Hood said.

The former teacher is a bail bondsman and has various business and real estate interests.


Outdoors
centerpiece
Work on new skate park will soon be underway

KINGSPORT — Construction on the new Scott Adams Memorial Skate Park is expected to start this month and the facility could be open as early as April of next year.

The new park will be roughly the same size as the old one, but with modern features made from more durable materials, and will offer better flow for skaters and bikers. And it’s been designed by Kanten Russell, a professional skateboarder and lead designer for New Line Skateparks of California.

Kingsport’s skate park opened in November 2005 and is named after Scott Adams, a 13-year-old who was struck by a car while retrieving his skateboard on Stone Drive. The Adams family, in coordination with the Parks and Recreation Department, created the skate park at Cloud Park in his honor.

Earlier this year, officials announced the park would be moving due to the transformation project taking place at Domtar. Kingsport would receive the 40-acre Cement Hill property while Domtar would get Cloud Park and develop it into the plant’s new truck entrance. Domtar also agreed to give the city $500,000 to support the relocation of the skate park to the Brickyard Park property.

TIMELINE FOR CONSTRUCTION

A portion of the Kingsport Greenbelt, near the skate park, will be closed for most of September as Domtar begins the next phase of its transformation project. However, the current skate park is not being demolished at this time.

Kitty Frazier, Parks and Recreation manager, told the Times News last week that construction of the new skate park is slated to begin sometime this month.

“We’re finalizing the paperwork now and the contract agreement will be finalized in September,” Frazier said. “Once (the contractor) gets the notice to proceed, they’ll have 180 days, so you’re looking at an April to May time frame to open the new park. It’ll be great timing for a spring opening.”

GRC Construction, offering the low bid of $1.86 million, was awarded the contract last month by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

FEATURES OF THE NEW PARK

During the design process for the new park, GRC partnered with New Line Skateparks, a California-based company. Russell, 47, a professional skateboarder and lead designer for the company, led the input sessions with local skaters and bikers on what features the new Scott Adams Memorial Skate Park should have.

“We wanted to make sure we had the input we needed and it was checking all of the boxes of what users wanted, especially since the park was being replaced,” Russell said in an interview with the Times News last week. “The biggest concern I heard was making sure they weren’t going to have less than what they have now. They also wanted a bowl and some transition-flowing terrain for skateboarding and bikes.”

Conceptual drawings show the new skate park having two bowls (a backyard bowl and a flow bowl), a four-stair set with up-down rails, two quarter pipes, an up-down hubba ledge, a five-stair with a down rail and a pyramid, among other features.

Russell, who has worked on nearly 300 skate parks all across the country, said it was important to make sure New Line designed a facility for Kingsport with enough space and flow for everyone to ride safely and accommodate all users (from beginners to veterans) at the same time.

“It’s going to be a big game-changer and create better zones for people to really ride different disciplines,” Russell said. “The materials will be very durable and we’re creating something that’s going to be there for a very long time.”


Politics
AP
After unrelenting summer, Biden looks to get agenda on track

WASHINGTON — The collapse of the Afghan government, a surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant, devastating weather events, a disappointing jobs report. What next?

After a torrent of crises, President Joe Biden is hoping to turn the page on an unrelenting summer and refocus his presidency this fall around his core economic agenda.

But the recent cascade of troubles is a sobering reminder of the unpredictable weight of the office and fresh evidence that presidents rarely have the luxury of focusing on just one crisis at a time. Biden’s unyielding summer knocked his White House onto emergency footing and sent his own poll numbers tumbling.

“The presidency is not a job for a monomaniac,” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss. “You have to be multitasking 24 hours a day.”

Never has that been more true than summer 2021, which began with the White House proclamation of the nation’s “independence” from the coronavirus and defying-the-odds bipartisanship on a massive infrastructure package. Then COVID-19 came roaring back, the Afghanistan pullout devolved into chaos and hiring slowed.

Biden now hopes for a post-Labor Day reframing of the national conversation toward his twin domestic goals of passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill and pushing through a Democrats-only expansion of the social safety network.

White House officials are eager to shift Biden’s public calendar toward issues that are important to his agenda and that they believe are top of mind for the American people.

“I think you can expect the president to be communicating over the coming weeks on a range of issues that are front and center on the minds of the American people,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

“Certainly you can expect to hear from him more on his Build Back Better agenda, on COVID and his commitment to getting the virus under control, to speak to parents and those who have kids going back to school.”

During the chaotic Afghanistan evacuation, the White House was central in explaining the consequences of Biden’s withdrawal decision and the effort to evacuate Americans and allies from the country. Now, officials want to put the State Department and other agencies out front on the efforts to assist stranded Americans and support evacuees, while Biden moves on to other topics.

It’s in part a reflection of an unspoken belief inside the White House that for all the scenes of chaos in Afghanistan, the public backs his decision and it will fade from memory by the midterm elections.

Instead, the White House is gearing up for a legislative sprint to pass more than $4 trillion in domestic funding that will make up much of what Biden hopes will be his first-term legacy before the prospects of major lawmaking seize up in advance of the 2022 races.

On Friday, in remarks on August’s disappointing jobs report, he tried to return to the role of public salesman for his domestic agenda and claim the mantle of warrior for the middle class.

“For those big corporations that don’t want things to change, my message is this: It’s time for working families — the folks who built this country — to have their taxes cut,” Biden said.

He renewed his calls for raising corporate rates to pay for free community college, paid family leave and an expansion of the child tax credit.

“I’m going to take them on,” Biden said of corporate interests.

While Biden may want to turn the page, though, aides are mindful that the crises are not done with him.

Biden is planning to speak this week on new efforts to contain the delta variant and protect kids in schools from COVID-19. And his administration continues to face criticism for his decision to pull American troops from Afghanistan before all U.S. citizens and allies could get out.

“President Biden desperately wants to talk about anything but Afghanistan, but Americans who are hiding from the Taliban, ISIS, and the Haqqani network don’t give a damn about news cycles, long weekends, and polling — they want out,” said Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. He called on the Biden White House on Friday to provide a public accounting of the number of Americans and their allies still stuck inside Afghanistan.

Biden also will soon be grappling with fallout from the windup of two anchors of the government’s COVID-19 protection package: The federal moratorium on evictions recently expired, and starting Monday, an estimated 8.9 million people will lose all unemployment benefits.

The president also is still contending with the sweeping aftereffects of Hurricane Ida, which battered the Gulf states and then swamped the Northeast. After visiting Louisiana last week, he’ll get a firsthand look at some of the damage in New York and New Jersey on Tuesday.

Already, he is trying to turn the destruction wrought by the hurricane into a fresh argument for the infrastructure spending he’s been pushing all along, telling local officials in Louisiana, “It seems to me we can save a whole lot of money and a whole lot of pain for our constituents — if when we build back, we build it back in a better way.”

According to White House officials, even as other issues dominated headlines, Biden and his team have maintained regular conversations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about the president’s legislative agenda. His legislative team held more than 130 calls and meetings with members of Congress, their chiefs of staff and aides on the infrastructure bill and spending package, and his administration has held over 90 meetings with legislative staff on crafting the reconciliation bill.

Responding to concerns raised by pivotal Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., over the price tag on the roughly $3.5 trillion social spending package, White House chief of staff Ron Klain told CNN on Sunday that he was convinced that the Democrat was “very persuadable” on the legislation.

Cabinet officials have also been engaged with lawmakers, officials said, and traveled to 80 congressional districts to promote the agenda across the country while Biden was kept in Washington.

Biden, said Beschloss, may have a leg up on some of his predecessors at moving beyond the crises to keep his legislative agenda on track, given his 50 years of experience in national politics.

“If there’s anyone who has a sense of proportion and distance and perspective at a time like this, he does,” Beschloss told The Associated Press. “For someone who’s been in national life much more briefly and was new to the presidency, you’re being stunned by things all the time.”


News
featured
Pound, Wise County governments at odds over call to revoke town’s charter

POUND — After no meetings in August, the Pound Council is expected to meet Tuesday over reports that the Wise County Board of Supervisors will call for revoking the town’s charter.

An emergency town council meeting has been called for Tuesday at 6 p.m. with one agenda item: formal opposition to a proposed Sept. 9 supervisors resolution calling on the General Assembly to repeal the town’s charter.

The proposed county resolution reads as a recent history of town woes, citing:

• Financial struggles with decreasing revenues over many years.

• Failure to comply with audit requirements.

• Multiple lawsuits involving town council members and former employees.

• Loss of its water and sewer systems to the county Public Service Authority.

• Delays in issuing real estate tax tickets.

• “Egregious mismanagement and disregard of the public health and safety of residents and nearby neighbors.”

• The town’s inability to guarantee “protection of persons and property and the preservation of peace and good order.”

“… This total disregard for the basic (tenets) of a local government and the apparent inability to provide a fiscally responsible and safe environment for the citizens requires drastic consideration at the County level of the ability for the Town of Pound, Virginia to remain viable as municipality …” the county resolution added.

The town was incorporated by county Circuit Court order in 1946, according to the draft resolution, and the General Assembly issued the town’s charter in 1984.

Along with asking the legislature to repeal Pound’s charter, the resolution also asks the state to assume all outstanding town debts and liabilities.

The resolution, if passed, also states the supervisors’ willingness to take over remaining town property and responsibility for all town records and documents.

The Board of Supervisors meets Thursday at 6 p.m. at the county school board meeting room at Lake Street in Wise.


It took a long time for the interstates to be built. Bridges had to be constructed and routes cleared through mountainous areas such as the Cumberland Plateau.


Back