I Don't Understand

Back in 2004 when I was on the commission, I didn't understand it. In 2008 when I was on the school board, I didn't understand it. Now that I'm just riding the tractor and watching the world go by, I still don't understand it. I'm talking about why it is that our county mayors are always trying to evict the school system administration from the county office building.

Some of you may not know the current layout of the county offices. The county office building in Loudon houses Loudon County general government and the Loudon County schools administrative offices. The building it's self is an old school building that was repurposed into the county building many years ago and has served it's purpose well all these years. One end of the building is county government offices the other end of the building is the school's offices.

The most recent incarnation of moving the school people out is from county mayor Estelle Herron. Ms. Herron claims, rightfully so, the county government employees are out of space for personal and storage. The original plan was an addition to the current county building on the county government side. The capitol projects committee has approved three hundred thousand dollars for the addition. Three hundred thousand dollars will build a pretty big addition that would easily alleviate the space constraints and make room for lots of staff and storage.

Now however, Ms. Herron has taken up the mantel of several of her predecessors in calling for the school administrators to move out to make room for county general offices.

Don't panic, the mayor isn't wanting to just kick the school people to the street. Her plan, as were her predecessors, is for the school offices to relocate to the old vocational school on Harrison Road in Lenoir City. Problem is, that building is already mostly occupied and it would probably cost several million to remodel it to make it functional for school administration offices.

There is the real problem of logistics. County government is the financial administrator for the school system. School administrators spend an enormous amount of time working with county administrators especially the county financial director. They also must work closely with the purchasing department and even sometimes the mayor's office. Just the distance in miles between offices would create some real problems. 

Then there are all the current operations that are housed in the building. I'll be the first to say that a couple of them should be eliminated, but that's not going to happen. I tried for four years to get rid of them. So, in the building now is the Family Resource Center, a total waste of money, but their there. Then there's the Coordinated Health Resources. Another huge waste of space and money, but they're there. The tech department is there with all their equipment, the office of the CTE director is there, the mandated alternative school is there and it's the only building in the school system that has a conference area large enough to accommodate a lot of the school's training and conferences.

A big portion of the building is comprised of large bay areas that were used in it's vocational school days. These bays are full of all kinds of stuff from maintenance equipment to the the school system's years and years of permanent  records. Books, furniture and supplies storage is there too.

If school officials are going to be moved to this building, a lot of this other stuff and people are going to have to go somewhere.

I think everybody knows, it's always cheaper to build new that to remodel and when it comes to an older facility like the vocational building, there's no telling what all problems could be encountered.

A three hundred thousand addition to the current building would be a bargain compared to the cost to reclaim the old vocational school.

Here's one other thought that we discussed when I was on the school board. If the county wants to spend millions on remodeling that building, go ahead and remodel it into another school building to alleviate overcrowding on the Eaton campus. Several grades could be moved there freeing up space at Eatons and North Middle.

After all, if we're going to spend millions of dollars on a building project, wouldn't it be a better idea to do it for the little children than for a half dozen bureaucrats?

It's all for the children. Right?