THE HUNTER REPORT
click to see SCHOOL BOARD VOTES ON RESOLUTION TO STAY AT SAME LOCATION
PROPOSED BOE MOVE & COUNTY MAYOR'S PRICEY (TECH CENTER) OFFICE RENOVATIONS
BY: PAT HUNTER
At Thursday’s Jan. 9th meeting, the Loudon County Board of Education discussed the proposed move from their present office located in Loudon, the county seat to the Tech Center in Lenoir City and the pricey $900,000 renovations.
Director Vance spoke about receiving feedback from school board members who were inquiring about the school board offices transition to the Loudon County Technical Center, Harrison Rd., Lenoir City (LCTC).
Director Vance was referencing the $900,000 school board administration office renovations at the Tech Center proposed by Mayor Estelle Herron and Budget Committee.
(Note: On July 15, 2013, Commission approved $1.3 Million County- Capital Projects (#171) and related funding Resolution. The $1.3 Million Capital Projects included a $300,000 request from Mayor Estelle Herron for an addition (1,100 sq. ft. ) to the county office building. Mayor Herron needed more office space for two departments, IT Dept., (new IT employee), and the Finance Department. A September 17, 2013 letter to Mayor Herron from the Tennessee Comptroller, Office of State and Local Finance addressed the approval of a $1.3 Million Notes, an inter-fund loan (three-years) from the Education Debt Service Fund (#156). In early October 2013, the $1.3 million was transferred from the schools education fund to the County Capital Projects #171.)
Director Vance spoke with Brian McDonald with Weeks McDonald Ambrose Architects. He thought that the renovations could be done for $800,000 but problems with the HVAC system, the cost was driving upward to nearly $1 Million dollars. Some board members shared discontent with moving to the Loudon County Technical Center LCTC. Vice Chairman Dr. Best as a TLN representative, part of his job is to address resolutions. Dr. Best had a resolution about the board of education and BOE office move to the Tech Center that he wished to share with the board.
I think that the appropriate way to approach Commission is not to say, we would rather that you not do this but to put a resolution as part of our strategic planning for the facilities and this is just a component of that commented Vice Chairman Ric Best. Chairman Bobby Johnson Jr. who was absent had requested that a resolution be prepared. Vice Chairman Best presided over the board meeting.
According to the law and lawyers that they have checked with that is commission’s option commented board member Le Roy Tate. I know when they first started this thing, referring to the county office building renovations, the original cost was $300,000 and the county would have to borrow money for the addition of the county office offices. Since then the number has grown to $1 Million dollars which defeats the purpose.
Rather than prepare a resolution, board member Le Roy Tate thought the school board should talk to commission about taking the $300,000 from surplus. He spoke about building on the school board side of the county office building side and giving the county 1,100 sq. ft. or whatever the county needed from the BOE Central Office side. He suggested putting a director’s office and other offices on the school board end and additional parking between the COB (school side) and the Loudon City Library property. Like that the county didn’t need to borrow $300,000. “We have pumped $1 Million dollars into the building that could be used on something or we could sell it and make $1 Million dollars Tate said. We need to talk to them and brainstorm a little bit so we can come up with a working solution.
Board member Williams Jenkins added to the discussion, we still have the roof (Tech Center) issue. Right replied Tate.
Board member Scott Newman also shared his thoughts. The school board, Leroy Tate was on the board at the time (2006), asked county commission to vote in the adequate facilities tax when all the discussion started to build new schools and how this school system had not planned ahead and we’re in a bind and we’re going to need to raise taxes Newman added. That tax was made for our schools for us to educate our kids Newman added. To go and spend that money on offices that we have, $900,000 will go a long way to Loudon High School and a long way with a bunch of other schools for things that we need to do, board member Newman said. He agreed with Dr. Best. He was already getting feedback from his constituents about spending taxpayer money on a facility that was not needed by the school board. I’m still of the mindset that we are in the county seat and there are different opinions about that. We’re a county office and we should be located in the County Seat, and that’s my opinion he concluded.
I have had several phone calls; more people are learning about this, this is not a good use our money and to take the AFT money and put into an office is very inappropriate commented board member Dr. Ubben. We’re not the ones that need the space, it’s county government that needs it. Originally the county spoke about adding an addition to the building which is a far less way to go if that is what they need. If they need space for a couple of bookkeepers, Jason (Director Vance) has suggested giving the school board conference room a couple of offices if that is what they are needing but to spend one million dollars ($1,000.000.00) that’s crazy.
The adequate facilities tax was made to educate the kids and to help our facilities echoed board member Scott Newman. Things have changed so much Le Roy Tate felt that the school board should talk to commission and work through this thing.
Dr. Ubben and Scott Newman thought the resolution was a good idea. Board member Jeremy Buckles agreed that something should be in writing but he felt that the board could work something out with commission but he was concerned about the cost estimates. He thought that the original concern with the county mayor (Estelle Herron) was to save $300,000 in taxpayer money but this was going to cost taxpayers a lot more. Board member agreed with the opinion of Scott Newman that the school board offices should be located in the county seat of Loudon. I have read the statute and I feel that the county offices should also be located there.
Board member Phil Moffett spoke about the Tech Center roof because the schools computer system is located there. The school board felt the roof should be fixed.
Board member Craig Simon shared the same concerns about not using taxpayer money unwisely.
Acting Chairman Ric Best (Vice Chairman) asked for a motion on a resolution to remain at the same location at 100 River Rd. The window of opportunity is closing. Director Vance asked that the board approve the repair of the Tech Center roof for many reasons. See roll call vote at the end of this article.
Gary Ubben motioned to approve Dr. Best’s resolution, which was seconded by board member Jeremy Buckles. Director Vance spoke about numerous school projects that are pending. There was a brief discussion about who would present the resolution to commission. The Chair or Vice-Chairman would present the resolution to commission. The board worked on fine tuning the final wording of the resolution and an amendment was made to omit some of the earlier verbiage.
Dr. Ubben suggested addressing commission during the public comment period or requesting to be added to Commission’s agenda. Director Vance agreed with board member Leroy Tate but he felt that Commission would take action on Jan. 13th. Board member Scott Newman suggested that each board member contact their respective commissioners and discuss how the school board felt about this matter. Leroy Tate suggested director Vance talk to the county mayor and request that this matter be taken off the county commission agenda.
Board member William Jenkins made an amendment to the original motion seconded by board member Craig Simon. The amendment was to delete the second paragraph of the final paragraph from the resolution. To direct that the director meet with the mayor and request the agenda item be pulled from the commission agenda and postpone until the school board could have a joint meeting with commission. If the mayor agrees to remove the agenda item from the commission agenda, the resolution would be pulled. However, if the mayor disagrees to removing this item from the commission agenda then the director (Vice-chairman Best) would present the resolution to commission. Roll call followed: Aye: Moffett, Ubben, Jenkins, Buckles, Simon, Best. No: Ridings, Tate, Newman. The amendment was approved.
On roll call vote to the original motion the following board members voted as follows: Aye: Best, Mofett, Ubben, Jenkins, Buckles, Newman, Simon. No: Ridings, Tate. The motion was approved.
Old Loudon Middle School also known as the County Office Building (COB) 100 River Rd., Loudon.