Loudon considering moving school administrative offices

Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com

LOUDON — The Loudon County Commission budget and capital projects committee Monday recommended that the commission provide $900,000 to fund moving the county schools administrative offices to a location on the county’s north side.
There was little discussion of the proposal, which would involve renovating and repurposing part of the little used Loudon County Technical Center on Harrison Road in Lenoir City to provide 5,000 square feet of office space for the schools department.
The schools administrative offices are currently housed in about 8,500 square feet of the county office building.
Commissioner Sharon Yarbrough, who is not a member of either the budget or capital projects committee, said she expected more discussion of the issue among board members. “I still have a lot of questions,” she said.
Among the issues concerning Yarbrough is how the newly renovated space at the LCTC and the vacated space in the county office building will be utilized.
She also has questions about the age and condition of the building and the ultimate cost of the move. “I’m concerned there might be some surprises,” she said.
The $900,000 requested includes $400,000 to repair the building’s roof, $400,000 for interior renovations and $100,000 for new HVAC units. Not included is the cost of moving and furnishings for the new offices. There is no date set for the move and it is unclear how long the renovations might take.
Schools Director Jason Vance said his department is prepared to make the transition whenever the commission is ready to move. There are pros and cons associated with the plan, he said. “There are more schools on this end of the county, but more students on the other end,” he said.

Vance, who has guided the first phase of the $43 million school building program for the past few years, said he is also concerned about spending money on administrative offices for adults while student needs outlined in the second phase of the building program are still awaiting funding.
School board chairman Bobby Johnson Jr. said he has similar concerns. The schools have needs including new field houses at Loudon and Greenback high schools that were originally supposed to be included in the first phase of the building plan. He said he’s concerned that funding for the second phase of the building plan might be compromised by the cost of the move. “We’re still not sure how much the commission will approve for phase two,” he said.

Johnson said he is also interested in a state attorney general’s opinion regarding the location of the county schools offices. Under some interpretations, the opinion states that the schools offices must be located in the county seat, which is the city of Loudon.