School headquarters to be discussed
Loudon County considers move, shifting of offices

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Loudon County is considering moving the school department headquarters to a new location so the county can have access to more Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant space.

“The county is between a rock and a hard place,” said schools Superintendent Edward Headlee. “They need more space and they don’t want to have to add a third story to the annex building.”

Under a plan expected to be discussed at the upcoming Loudon County Commission meeting, the county would take over all of the building on River Road that currently houses the headquarters of the school department and some county offices, including that of County Mayor Doyle Arp.

“It’s just a proposal,” said Leo Bradshaw, county purchasing agent. “We are not yet sure just how it will work out.”

The county needs the space for additional offices and records storage, Bradshaw said.

Under one of the scenarios proposed, the school department would move to the site of a former vocational school on Harrison Road.

The vocational building currently houses some school department offices, including those of the career coordinator and facilities coordinator. The available space in the building formerly housed the automotive repair classes.

“We’ve looked at renovating the bays,” Bradshaw said. “They probably would have more room there.”

The plan would allow the county to avoid adding a third story to the existing county annex building, thus possibly removing the need to install an elevator at the location where the basement is currently being used for county offices.

Because the office space currently occupied by the school department on River Road is all on one level, it makes ADA compliance easier, Headlee said.

Although Bradshaw said the county still plans to install the elevator at the annex building, the third-story option might cost as much as $1.8 million, and still would not solve the parking problem at the location.

Headlee said the cost to convert the former high-bay garage at the vocational school into usable office space might run hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“First of all, they’d have to get the grease off the floor or install a new floor,” he pointed out.

Given the current budget problems and poor condition of many Loudon County schools, it is unlikely that the school board or the county commission would look favorably upon providing a new building for the school department, Headlee added.