BLOUNTVILLE — Who owns the two public schools in Blountville?
Of 27 acres at the Blountville Middle and Elementary schools campus, the Sullivan County school board attorney said that a little more than 12 acres might belong to the county, although it is deeded to the Department of Education.
Or maybe they don’t.
Confused? So are county school system folks.
Blountville Middle was built as Blountville High in 1932, followed by Blountville Elementary in 1952. They stand on 27 acres in the unincorporated county seat.
The two schools, eventually tied into one building, will no longer be used for educational purposes after the academic year ends later this month, and the Board of Education is looking to declare them surplus and likely sell them to the highest bidder or perhaps trade them to the county for a road.
The BOE recently instructed board attorney Pat Hull to see about getting an appraisal on the property. The problem came when a look at the land records found a county eminent domain court order dated July 6, 1962, but no deed indication of where in the 27 acres the 12.25 acres are. Further confusing things is that the campus is split among three separate deeds.
“It’s a little bit more complicated than I would have thought,” Hull said at Tuesday’s school board meeting, adding that the appraiser approached about doing the valuation declined. He said no appraiser could figure a value of the property without the title question being addressed, likely by a title attorney.
“It’s not all ours,” Hull said. “It’s a big change.”
Blountvillle Middle School teacher Leslie Carr said she believes the land in question was used for an elementary school playground and was part of the Ford Farm.
County Mayor Richard Venable said Wednesday he had gotten the same explanation about the eminent domain purchase, and he said he also believes the land may have been for some ball fields.
“It appears it might be the ball fields in the back of the school,” Venable said. “It looks like it might be joint ownership.
“There are many twists and turns in that,” Venable said, adding that county commissioners are interested in the future of the property benefitting the Blountville area since it is “central to the health and well-being of the people in Blountville.”
The revelation comes as the Sullivan County Commission and school board are considering the county trading a road to the new West Ridge High School in exchange for the Blountville school campuses.
However, Hull also said that BOE Chairman Randall Jones may have a point in that eminent domain is allowed for limited use, including schools, and that since it was used for schools and is deeded to the school system that ownership is really with the school system.
Hull also said a Masonic lodge has a perpetual claim to use the property, which he also said would have to be addressed.
In addition, of 11 potential properties the county may declare as surplus, Hull said that a lot across from Mary Hughes Elementary is being removed from the list, leaving 10 properties.
After a recent Times News article about surplus properties, Hull said he got a call from a retired school system employee who said that a pavilion on the property has a 99-year lease to a Ruritan Club and doesn’t expire until 2065.
In addition, Hull said the Ruritan Club had a building on the land and school buses use part of the property as a staging area. Hull said it was listed as “vacant” since it had no school building on it.
All was not lost, however, on the surplus property front as the school board Tuesday night declared a school system-owned property on the list.
It is the old Paperville School site on School Lane off Weaver Pike. The school system will move toward selling the vacant and overgrown lot of about 2.5 acres at a public or sealed-bid auction.