Mary E. Hinds News Herald
At Monday night's
meeting of the Loudon County Commission, what began as a
discussion of financing the school building plan seemed to
become the opening exchange in the race for county mayor.
Board member Van Shaver, who is running for County Mayor against
the incumbent Doyle Arp, was on hand at the meeting when his
son, County Commissioner Austin Shaver, began discussions on the
school's building program and the possibility of getting
estimates for terms for borrowing amounts ranging from $30 to
After much discussion on the building plan and financing
sources, the commission voted 5-3 against getting estimates.
With Commissioners Don Miller and Chris Parks not in attendance,
the remaining eight commissioners voted with only Bob Franke,
Earlena Maples and Shaver voting in favor of getting the
estimates. At that point, Van Shaver spoke from the audience
saying their was no majority given the absent commissioners.
"Let them run the meeting up here," Arp told him.
The vote was followed by the public speaking portion of the
agenda. "You people need to get together," said Loudon County
resident Richard Truitt adding the situation with the school
building program has gone on "year after year" and they need to
"put away your little, petty grievances" and "get something
At the outset of the meeting Austin Shaver asked that school
building funding be added to the agenda and began the discussion
by moving that the commission ask Accounting and Budget Director
Tracy Blair to seek out the best available rates for the county
to borrow money for the school building program "It's almost
like bringing the finance side to bid," Shaver said, adding the
school board had voted to ask the county commission for numbers.
"This is not a motion to lock in a number, but to give the
school board an idea of what they are working with," he
Don Shell, head of the architectural firm Community Tectonics,
told the commissioners his firm was working on three of the four
projects in Phase I of the building program. He said he
estimated the county would need $45 to $47 million to fund all
four projects - a new school at Greenback, a new middle school
at location to be determined, renovations at Philadelphia School
and the combining of Loudon Elementary and Fort Loudoun Middle
Shell said the poor economy could work to the county's advantage
with firms lowering their bids in an effort to secure a large
building contract. He said he could not recommend getting actual
bids, as Commissioner Don Miller had suggested at an earlier
commission workshop, because a lot of firms would be bidding and
spending a lot of time and money getting their bids ready and it
wouldn't be fair to call for bids when the county still has no
idea how much it can finance.
He also said given the four to six month lag between asking for
bids and getting prices the county might not be able to take
advantage of current economic conditions because prices could do
down even more. He suggested the county not actually bid it
until the money is available.
Commissioner David Meers suggested that the commission meet with
the school board in the new year to discuss exactly where the
building plan stands. Meers said he would not vote for any plan
until he got an answer to what would happen to the old Greenback
School building if a new school was built. He added any plans
should have "no bells and whistles" and that he was "not in any
hurry to spend that kind of money."
Shaver then repeated his motion with Maples giving the second.
Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp spoke up saying Blair was not the
person to contact about getting estimates. "That's Leo's job,"
Arp said meaning County Purchasing Director Leo Bradshaw. He
added anyone who wanted that information could work with his
office and that he would get the estimates even if he agreed or
disagreed. "We're glad to spin our wheels up there," he said,
but he cautioned about pressing financial institutions to spend
too much time coming up with estimates because they'll think
we'll borrow from them.
Arp went on to say if the school board wanted anything like the
$100 million being spoken of three years ago, the commission had
better be ready to raise the rate and raise taxes. He said the
building plan started at $100 million and "three years later
we're still at an impasse." He added the commission had never
been told definitively what is needed.
Shaver spoke up to clarify his motion, saying he had brought
possible financing plans to the county commission three times
and that those plans were not designed from the school board's
perspective. He reiterated he wanted estimates for the most we
could do without raising taxes.
Shaver acknowledged that interest rates could change from the
time of any estimates to when the county went to actually borrow
the money. "This motion does not delay the process or commit the
county commission to spending one dollar," he said reminding the
commission the school board had formally asked for this.
Shaver told the commission it was important to let the school
board know if the county could only finance, for example, $35
million so they would know to scale back their plans. "
Arp said if Shaver had just come to the commission's budget
committee it would already be done and he would have finance
estimates in hand. He said instead Shaver had sought "headlines
for him and his dad,"
Arp said the Shavers preferred to run to the paper and
circumvent the process because of the upcoming election.