BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s school board has approved the sale of the former Holston Valley Middle School to the same man who already has bought and is renovating Bluff City Middle School.
However, the vote was to award the bid to the highest bidder that followed specific bidding instructions, not the absolute highest bid, upon the advice of school board attorney Pat Hull.
The apparent winning bid was $100,000 for Parcel 1, including the school building, and $20,000 for the adjoining Parcel 2, from Christopher Laisure, a Piney Flats businessman who is turning Bluff City Middle into a home for multiple not-for-profit ventures and a youth sports program.
He listed the Impact Community Center as the organization for which he was bidding.
The two schools closed in December 2019, and students were consolidated into the new Sullivan East Middle School in January 2020.
The only other comparable bid was $125,000, or $5,000 higher, for both properties from Charles Fritts, although the bids had to be separate because the Board of Education is the owner of record for the larger parcel with the building and the county is the owner of record for the other parcel.
Both Fritts and Laisure indicated they wanted either both or neither property, but Hull said there was no way to determine how to split the $125,000 between the school board and County Commission in Fritts’ bid. Hull said that wanting all or none of the properties makes sense since, among other things, the field beds for the building on Parcel 1 are in Parcel 2.
The board was not bound to take the highest bid or any bids.
The board’s approval of the sale of its parcel and building to Laisure is contingent on the commission approving the sale of its parcel for $20,000. Hull said he, Purchasing Agent Kris Davis and County Attorney Dan Street agree that Laisure had the highest bid that followed instructions. Otherwise, Hull said that Laisure would have legal standing to contest the sale of the building to Fritts.
The other bidders were Josh Barrett for $40,011 for Parcel 1 and $10,888 for Parcel 2 and that he would take either if not both; George Duncan of Gold Nuggett Properties LLC for $21,000 on Parcel 1 and $3,000 on Parcel 2, indicating he would take Parcel 1 by itself.
The next surplus school property to be sold would be the old Holston Institute/former Holston Middle School near Tri-Cities Airport. The system already has sold the ballfields part of that property, and the buildings, which once included a Masonic Lodge meeting place, are being used for storage by the school system and Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.
After the opening of West Ridge High School near the airport in August 2021, Blountville Middle School, the middle school portion of Sullivan Gardens K-8 and Colonial Heights Middle School could be declared surplus.
However, Blountville Middle and the former Sullivan West High School adjoin Blountville Elementary and Sullivan Gardens Elementary, respectively.