Botched-up Bleacher Fiasco


Leo Bradshaw and his sidekick Dave Hemelright, architect, Larry Proaps.

Bleacher Issues & Recommendations  

By: Pat Hunter

November 22, 2008


The BOE Maintenance Committee met on Nov. 20th. This was prompted by the School Board’s earlier vote to form a committee and gather information for the Board. The Maintenance Committee was advised that $20,000 was incurred as a result of the Cease and Desist Order, when the Board halted further work on the motorized bleacher installation. The Committee hopes to use these materials elsewhere.


At the Nov. 13th School Board meeting, the Board voted to halt all work after board member Scott Newman complained about shoddy work concerning the installation of motorized bleachers at Ft. Loudon Middle School. The BOE Maintenance Committee met for nearly 2-hours. On hand to discuss the bleacher debacle were board members Larry Proaps, Van Shaver, Lisa Russell and Craig Simon. Lisa Russell was elected as Chair. Harrelson was absent. Others in attendance: Leroy Tate, Scott Newman, School Director Wayne Honeycutt, Tom Hankinson, CTE Director, and Sherry Parrish, Loudon High principal, Tim Berry, North Middle principal and Jeremy Lorenz, vice-principal Ft. Loudon Middle School and the bleacher consultant.


Months ago, the School Board voted to initially spend $175,000, which was later changed to $300,000, after the Board realized that they had goofed on the price of motorized bleachers at four schools, which included Greenback School, Loudon High School, North Middle and Ft. Loudon Middle. School board members Marcus, Newman, Proaps, Harrelson, Johnson, Jr., voted for the bleacher project but former board member Freddie Walker opposed the costly motorized bleacher project. He was concerned about the cost and other issues with the project and he voiced his concerns while the remainder of the Board pressed forward.


The Committee discussed holes that were cut for wheel chair access, cleaning issues and the American Disabilities Act. Why would we be asked to be ADA compliant if we weren’t written up for this matter, someone asked? Dave Hemelright acknowledged that he initiated the bleacher inspection report to be proactive rather than be reactive to avoid a lawsuit. Some on the Committee inquired why others consultants were not asked to look at bleachers and make recommendations. Hemelright asked only one company to participate. The same consultant was asked for input on two separate occasions, one for the report and 2nd time regarding bleacher costs issues.  


Click to see Video Clip - LEO BRADSHAW, ADA Issues  

The top two maintenance heads were on-hand to address questions, Leo Bradshaw and Dave Hemelright. They sat side-by-side in support of one another. Leo Bradshaw wears three hats, which includes Director of Loudon County Purchasing and Maintenance and ADA Coordinator.


Loudon County piggy backed off Knox County’s pricing per school and the only thing that changed was the cutout for wheel chairs, said Bradshaw. He identified four problem issues with the bleachers:


  1. Flimsy steps - Bradshaw explained that flimsy steps were a problem and that steps give when someone steps on them. He felt that issue had been addressed.
  2. Loose hand rails- There were concerns about the looseness of the upper bracket of the hand rails, as people walk up the bleachers. That’s standard, Bradshaw commented, but looseness of hand rails had some concerned. He thought that could be solved by tightening the hand rails.
  3. Color of Benches - Another concern was the color of the benches, which was painted yellow for safety purposes but another color (school colors) could be used, if need be.
  4. Access - cleaning underneath bleachers. The other thing was the issue of access, getting underneath the bleachers to clean the access area. Bradshaw mentioned that they learned that the “cut out” should have been back another foot. Bradshaw was referring to the “cut outs” made by the maintenance dept. for access to wheel chairs in order to be ADA compliant. That would give a 33” by 20” clearance to access underneath the bleachers so a blower could be used to blow the trash from the back to the front. The material for the steps was supposed to be ¾ inch and the materials weren’t. The lower step wasn’t supposed to be used, which caused confusion, Bradshaw explained, the next step was to address these issues. There is enough money in each school budget to do the work, said Bradshaw.


Several months ago, the driving force for the motorized bleachers was Dave Hemelright who urged the Board to be code compliant. North Middle School and Ft. Loudon Middle will receive bleacher repairs and the holes will be plugged. However, Greenback School will receive new bleachers because of age, which is expected to be in compliance of codes and ADA law.  


According to the bleacher consultant, anytime that you have new bleachers that they need to be handicap compliant. Bradshaw mentioned that six handicap spaces were needed to be in compliant of American Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements but, it was decided only to have two handicap spaces. Bradshaw mentioned that decision was made by the school (administration) and his department. With only two spaces instead of six, Loudon County Schools would still not be in compliant of federal law.


After a long discussion, the Maintenance Committee recommended to “plug up” the access holes. Van Shaver made the motion, 2nd by Lisa Russell; the Maintenance Committee would recommend the following:


School board member Scott Newman in attendance but not on the Maintenance Committee requested an estimate to re-finish bleachers at Ft. Loudon Middle and North Middle School, which are about 37–years old. Director Wayne Honeycutt said that they have estimates that will be provided at the next workshop meeting for further discussion.


Director Honeycutt had some closing comments. He explained that Hemelright apprised the (old) Board of the potential problem. He offered advice, to stay within budget and not jeopardize the good “rapport” with the Budget Committee (Arp, Miller, Duff, Meers and Park). Video Clips Director Honeycutt Video Clip1 GETGO   Director Honeycutt Video  Clip2 RAPPORT


Dave Hemelright inquired about the Cease Order concerning the motorized bleacher installation, which will remain in effect until a formal School Board vote is taken and rescinded.


The new bleachers should have addressed safety and ADA issues; don’t we pay employees to address these issues and details? How can Leo Bradshaw as ADA coordinator not be sensitive to those that are physically challenged, isn’t upholding the law part of his job? What about the School Administrators, School Board or Loudon County, do they take a risk if someone complains about these ADA issues?