The commission voted 8-2 to recommend the school board get construction estimates for all four projects outlined in the first phase of the building plan. The vote also authorized $1.5 million for architectural plans.
The vote followed an in-depth discussion of a motion proposed by Chairman Roy Bledsoe to recommend the school board build a new middle school in Loudon and renovate the cafeteria at Philadelphia School.
Many Greenback residents were concerned that Bledsoe's motion did not include a proposed new K-12 school for their community, which they and a majority on the school board consider to be a priority because of safety issues.
The commission heard more than an hour of comments from citizens, school board members and school administrators asking the board to give priority to the Greenback project.
Greenback parent Ron Sabo said he was tired of seeing the school building plan bounce back and forth between the commission and the school board. He urged the commission to embrace the program.
Terry Johnson, a grandmother with four children in Greenback School, said the commission has the responsibility to make sure children are taught in a safe environment.
"Why should I have to stand here and plead for you to do your jobs?" she asked.
Greenback resident Ken Wahl said the lack of action on the building program was "a crime against kids."
School board member Gary Ubben asked the commission to move quickly in the decision to fund the building program so the county could take advantage of lower interest rates and competitive bidding because of the national recession.
Following Bledsoe's motion, Commissioner Bob Franke of Greenback asked to amend Bledsoe's motion so that it would include all of the building plan's first phase.
Franke said county leaders would be held responsible by the voters if the building plan did not get under way soon. The county had managed previously to agree on building everything from a new dog shelter to a senior citizens center.
"We've taken care of the seniors. We've taken care of the animals. When are we going to take care of the children?" Franke said.
After a lengthy discussion, the commission voted against Franke's amendment and Bledsoe's motion.
The commission then voted to pass a motion by Commissioner Don Miller to recommend that the school board move get construction plans for all the proposed projects.
The board would still have to return to commission to request funding for the construction of the individual schools. The motion leaves unanswered the question of the priority of the Greenback project.