Commission chairman looks to build school in Loudon first

Mary E. Hinds News Herald

County Commission Chairman Roy Bledsoe stepped into the breach between the commission and the county school board Monday night, telling the commissioners he intends to introduce a motion proposing two projects be first for the county school's building program.

Bledsoe said he would recommend to the county capital projects committee and the school board that work begin on a new middle school in Loudon and renovations to the Philadelphia School cafeteria. Those two projects, along with a new school in Greenback and the combining of Loudon Elementary and Fort Loudoun Middle School, make up Phase I of the building program proposed by the school board.

Bledsoe said the new middle school would allow the school board to get students out of all the trailers, which have been installed to relieve overcrowding at Fort Loudoun Middle School. 

The renovations in the Philadelphia cafeteria, which Bledsoe described as "the smallest in the county," would allow the school to stop serving lunches early in the morning and late into the afternoon in an attempt get all students fed. He noted that no classrooms were involved in the renovations and that the renovations could be complete in 2010. "We can get that one off the list," he told the commissioners. 

Commissioner Austin Shaver said he had two primary concerns with Bledsoe's plan. Shaver, himself an attorney, said he feared the commission would run the risk of doing something illegal with the motion. 

Shaver said he didn't think the county commission was allowed to decide which projects would be done, only how much money the commission could provide. "We need to find out if the county commission is allowed to make motions for projects, not just a dollar figure," he said.  He recommended the county's attorney answer that question before Bledsoe's motion was formally put before the commission. 

Shaver also noted that at an earlier meeting Director of Loudon County Schools Wayne Honeycutt was asked what he perceives as the greatest need in the county schools. He reported Honeycutt's response to the question as being if problem is overcrowding, then Fort Loudoun Middle School had the greater need, but if the issue is safety then Greenback School is the top priority. 

Speaking up from the audience Honeycutt confirmed the concern at Greenback School is safety. Shaver said the issue of overcrowding and safety between the two projects should be "carefully considered" before any recommendations are made.

Bledsoe said he was very concerned that recent high winds could make the trailers at Fort Loudoun Middle School a safety issue as well. He went on to say his proposed motion was not telling the school board what to do but an attempt to get the building program moving and that once the two projects are complete the county would continue the rest as soon as possible.

Bledsoe's motion may come before the commission at the Jan. 4 regular meeting.