BOE Takes Another Step

In what seems to be a painfully slow process, the Loudon County Board Of Education took another step forward for the proposed building program at Thursday's board meeting. The board voted to take all four building projects to the design and development stage which will allow the board and commission to have much firmer cost estimates. Those estimates will more clearly allow the board to determine how many of the proposed building can be done in phase one.

Last month the commission approved up to one million dollars for the board to get better estimates. The projected cost for obtaining the design and development of the projects is approximately $930,000.00.

School building plan debated, board moves forward

Mary E. Hinds News herald
After debate that could have been at times both heated and humorous, the Loudon County School Board voted to approve the funds needed to take Phase I of the county school building program through the design and development phase.

As planned, Phase I of the building program includes a new Pre K through grade-12 school in Greenback, a new middle school in Loudon, combining Loudon Elementary School and Fort Loudon Middle School (FLMS) into a Pre K through grade-5 and the expansion or replacement of the cafeteria at Philadelphia Elementary. 

Board Chairman Leroy Tate began the discussion moving immediately to carry all the projects to the design and development phase. 

"We've talked this to death," Tate said to the board adding " we have the funding from the county commission to do that."

He also said that by the time the projects were ready to break ground, he estimated in one-and-a-half to two years, the economy could turn around or there could be a chance for more money from the county.

Board member Bobby Johnson Jr. asked Tate how he knew how much money the county commission was willing to devote to the building program. Tate said he understood there was $20 million available now and the fees for taking the projects to the design and development phase would be $1million of that $20 million. 

Arguments ensued between several board members until Tate appeared to become fed up. "I've listened to this for six months," Tate said. "I've listened to this for five years, " Johnson countered. 

Board member Van Shaver said he didn't know how Tate could be sure of the amount of money available from the commission. He said Tate was talking like the commission had already voted to supply the money when he knew no such vote had been taken. 

Tate said he was using the same figures everyone had been using for months. 

Board member Gary Ubben said he felt the project to combine Loudon Elementary School and Fort Loudoun Middle School (FLMS) "was going in the wrong direction" with the current plan to combine the schools with a larger cafeteria and office suite when the plan should address the pods at FLMS. The pods are four interconnected classrooms.  He said the school did not have to be physically combined in order for them to have joint administration. 

Tate suggested Director Wayne Honeycutt instruct the architects working on the plan to come to a meeting of the board with pencil drawing of the basic design and plans for alternatives, such as not combining the schools physically and a plan to redesign the pods.

Shaver questioned how much was owed to the architectural firm of Weeks, Ambrose and McDonald and what had already been paid for. He said the design for the conjoining of the schools was the same one the firm came up with in 2006. "Do we owe them anymore?" Shaver asked, adding the board shouldn't pay anymore money "until they figure out what we're paying for." 

Honeycutt agreed the board had already paid the firm.

Shaver also said the initial plans for FLMS and Greenback have changed and wanted to know why. Honeycutt said after discussions with the faculties at both schools the size of the plans had changed to accommodate the programs at the schools and the number of classrooms needed to house those programs. 

Shaver said the process was moving backwards and the board was paying money for a plan they have not seen since they were not involved in the process of altering the plans. He also said if the board voted to approve the $1 million for the plans "the amount won't come down." Honeycutt said the amount could change as the board votes on the plans making them smaller or larger. 

Board member Larry Proaps reminded the board while the county commission may have indicated there would be $20 million for the first phase of the building program, phase one has been estimated to cost upwards of $40 million. "We cannot build everything," he said adding "we've got to do something." He urged the board to "quit bickering vote and move on." 

 couple of motions and amendments were voted down and Tate left the meeting because he had another obligation.

Shaver returned to the question of how much the board owes the architectural firm. He said the board had already paid them $167,500 and now he was unclear on whether or not another $40,000 was owed or if $200,000 was owed. "I don't think we should pay them anymore money" until that question was answered Shaver said. "I'm a little troubled tonight because I find myself agreeing with Van," joked Ubben, who frequently disagrees with Shaver at board meetings. 

Shaver moved to bring all four projects to the design and development phase contingent on clarification of the architect's fees for the combining of FLMS and Loudon Elementary. The board voted in favor of the motion with only Bill Marcus voting against it. 

Ubben then moved the plans for the combining of the schools use the 2006 plan but include alternatives for changing the schools including a plan that would change the pods, plans that showed the two schools connected by the cafeteria, office suite and corridors and plans without the connection. This motion was voted down by the board.

Board Vice Chairman Scott Newman, who took over the meeting when Tate departed, suggested the board meet at the schools in question along with the architects to begin deciding how to reconfigure the two schools. The board agreed and the meeting was set for May 20 at 7 p.m. at Loudon Elementary. 

The board decided to have a budget meeting May 21 at 6 p.m. at the Central Office Building in Loudon to begin to decide how to pay for the plans.