Not For Sale

Fore Note: Last week the News Herald ran an article, which you can read below, about the Loudon County Board Of Education once again looking at the possibility of buying more property on the upper end of the county for a possible future school. One of the properties that was mentioned in the article was the "First Baptist property." This is not the First Baptist Church property. The church is not considering selling any of their property to the BOE or anyone else.

The misconception came from Cope Associates, an engineering firm often used by the BOE for various building projects. Cope had agreed to do very minor, preliminary survey of various properties in the area for viability of a future school. One site considered is privately owned property next door to the church. First Baptist had even at one time considered an option on the same property.

In the Cope report, Cope referred to that property as the First Baptist property due to it's close proximity to the church. The News Herald story reported it as Cope had labeled it.

Again, First Baptist Church is not selling any of their property.

The whole idea that the BOE is looking at buying more land is ridiculous. This is the brain child of Dr. Professor Ubben and Dr. Music Best. Both these board members are always looking for ways to throw away tax payer money. Besides, the BOE still has the 2.2 million dollar, 321 Hwy. land they bought eleven years ago when they were just on the verge of building a new school on the north end of the county. That property is now worth about a half million dollars.

Besides, the BOE is already over fifty million dollars in debt, they've spent down their reserve money and enrollment is down by hundreds. So another school is not needed and they have no money to buy more land. It's just blabber talk by the doctors.

BOE mulls properties

Information was presented by Cope Associates during the BOE June workshop.
“(Cope Associates has) not done a great deal of work other than just saying out of the piece of properties that we brought to their attention some of them made better sense than others because of the excavation work that you have to do and the utility work that might be associated with it,” Jason Vance, director of schools, said. “That’s the biggest thing that they’ve done is probably get professional advice to say, ‘You could make all of them work. Some of them would just cost more money than others,’ and so that kind of gives the board some common sense things to consider as they move forward.”
A capital projects committee comprised of Gary Ubben, Craig Simon and Ric Best will meet July 11 to discuss the pros and cons of each option.
Estimated site development costs — excluding utilities — on the First Baptist, Shaw and Hall properties are $2.8 million, $2.45 million and about $2.5 million-$3.1 million depending on the access point for Hall, according to Cope Associates representative Cayce Smith.
“It’ll just have to be with what the cost is,” Best said. “Whether or not it’s a reasonable cost that can be economically figured into the overall project value, or if it’s going to be almost an extraordinary above boundary cost estimate. An example of that would be what I call the Osborne property, which is just perfect for a dual — for two schools or one school with two wings, such as a (grades) K through 5 wing and then a (grades) 6 through 8 wing.”
The Obsborne property off Shaw Ferry Road was initially considered in May 2016 before the BOE decided in August to hold off until more information could be given.
Past studies have directed officials to around the Highway 11 area, Ubben said.
“When we look at where are the children coming from that go to Eaton (Elementary School)?” Ubben said. “Where are the children coming from that go to North (Middle School)? Where are they coming from that go to Highland Park (Elementary School)? We’ve done maps for each of those three schools and where their enrollments draw from.”
Officials say that while overall student population has seen a decline over recent years, totals for North Middle, Eaton Elementary and Highland Park Elementary schools have remained high.
Highland Park and North Middle schools’ enrollment numbers have gradually increased the past three years, with the most recent tally at 388 and 811, respectively. Eaton Elementary is the only school on the northern side whose population has slightly decreased at 698 students for the 2016-17 year.
“It you look at this last building program that we started, that started in around 2004,” Scott Newman, board member, said. “We started planning trying to find land and trying to figure out what we needed. I think we’re a little bit more educated on what we’re going to need and of the process that goes into building the schools, and so I think one thing that justifies going ahead and doing is the growth that you’re seeing (in) Lenoir City.”

Ways to afford

Vance said property could be paid for a variety of ways, including through education debt service, Adequate Facilities Tax or using money received from selling the school board’s Highway 321 property purchased several years ago for about $2.2 million.
“It’ll depend on what kind of financial arrangements we can make with the seller,” Ubben said. “Sometimes you can buy a piece of property where you don’t necessarily need to pay for it all, you pay for it in installments. That might be a possibility here, we don’t know if it’s been discussed. So we don’t know if we would need to come out with the full amount immediately and sell bonds or whether we can take money out of one of the existing accounts.
“If we can pay out over time, and we don’t have to pay it all immediately, then it’s very likely we can take some each year out of three different potential funds,” he added. “One of them is that AFT fund, which generates about $600,000 a year for all the different projects that we do.”
Even if the board moves forward with new land, Ubben said officials would not have to construct immediately, noting a new school could still be five years away.
“We can buy the land and just pay for the land, not have any additional expenditures,” Ubben said. “When those occur, when we’re ready to get ready to build, then the question will come where are the utilities? What will it cost or what are the estimates to put them in? We’re looking at three different properties and all three of them have unique, different kinds of utility availability. One of them, the most expensive property of the three per acre, the utilities are almost immediately next door, so that would relatively be less expensive utility-wise.
“The second one the utilities are quite some distance away and would represent a fairly large expenditure when they’re needed,” he added. “The third one the utilities are relatively close but would need to be brought in from the highway a quarter of a mile or so.”
Ultimately, Ubben said Loudon County Commission will make the call on how land is afforded.

Justification for property?

Some school officials believe they must move forward with new land sometime soon even if the Highway 321 property remains unsold by Coldwell Banker Commercial Realtor Bryan Petett.
“I do believe that it’s starting to pique some people’s interest as far as development is concerned,” Vance said.
Newman believes the Highway 321 land should go first.
“I don’t think that it’s as pressing as some do,” Newman said. “We definitely need to do something within the next few years. The biggest thing that we’re going to run into is that the way that Lenoir City is growing it’s going to be hard to find any property in a few years. ... The last time, that (Highway) 321 property that was such a fiasco because you had a bunch of new board members that were excited to get stuff done and I think we put the cart before the horse and we didn’t do our homework for the property. That’s something we’ve got to make sure we do is do the homework and make sure we’re not getting ourselves in the same position.”