Commissioner Earlena Maples Tells All



Commissioner Shirley Reno (l), Earlena Maples (m) David Meers (r)

School Board Taken to Task for Maintenance of Schools!


By: Pat Hunter


When the Resolution to borrow $800,000 came up for a vote at Monday’s August 4th Commission meeting, video  Commissioner Earlena Maples shared some candid remarks about past funding and School Board spending while School Director Wayne Honeycutt, assistant school director Gil Luttrell and School Board members June Klinstiver and Nancy Paule looked on but did not reply to Maples comments.

Maples spent no time mincing words, she told on the School Board and how Commission had provided funding for maintenance of schools in past years. She thought that the money was supposed to fund maintenance and upkeep of school buildings but instead the money had been used for salary increases and other things, adding to the distrust between both groups. Maples said that under the circumstances that she could not support the Schools request. video Commissioner Wayne Gardin, Earlena Maples and Chris Park voted no on the Resolution to borrow $800,000 for roof and bleacher repairs. Voting Aye: Duff, Miller, Marcus, Bledsoe, Reno, Meers, Franke.

This was not the first time that a commissioner made that assertion, other commissioners made the same claim at recent meetings in the presence of assistant school director Gil Luttrell and former school director Edward Headlee. Luttrell and Headlee did not counter the commissioner’s claims. Another county official mentioned that for years, funds were approved with the understanding that the School Board make the necessary repairs and maintenance to the Loudon High School auditorium and other school repairs but the money was used elsewhere. Now the State Fire Marshall's office is vilified for requiring repairs to address life safety codes and issues at the schools, which were ignored for years!  

More about the Bleachers Repairs…

If you haven't kept up with the bleacher funding issue, please click BUTT, Where will they sit; School Bleachers Cost Questioned? Bleacher & Quotes Report

In preparation of the previous School budget request of 2007-2008, the School Board facilities Coordinator David Hemelright submitted his maintenance requests for each school along with his comments/recommendations. Under the heading for the Greenback School were the comments, “Outstanding items Never Completed @ Greenback: (d). Refurbish gym bleachers.” Hemelright did not list the cost to refurbish the Greenback bleachers; instead he wrote, that "a new school will eliminate these needs."

Hemelright’s FY 07-08 budget requests listed bleacher repair costs of $175,763 for the Loudon High School but, it was the Greenback School bleachers that received the Fire Marshall write up for life safety issues. The School Board was given almost 2 years to make the necessary repairs on the life safety observation and deficiency issues. Its hard to imagine why the School Board allowed this matter to drag on while ignoring these life safety matters from the State Fire Marshall's Office.  

Months after the Fire Marshall’s Annual Report was issued for the Greenback School, the subject of bleacher repairs and  funding request resurfaced once again, but this time at the request of former Loudon High Principle John Bartlett.

Weeks later and prior to the start of the June 6, 2008 Special Called meeting, Greenback School parent Lisa Russell, candidate for School Board, requested and obtained a copy of the Bleacher & Cost Report and noticed the bleacher cost discrepancy in the report. The public was led to believe that the cost of $175,763 would first repair only Loudon High School. Then the story changed that the $175,763 would then repair all school bleachers. Russell attempted to speak at the Special Called meeting after she noticed that there was a cost difference on the cover of the report. When she tried to bring this matter to the School Board she was promptly silenced at the urging of Loudon School Board member Bill Marcus. Later, Russell discovered that the Bleacher cost estimates did not include the bleachers for the Greenback School. Adding the Greenback School bleachers to the cost estimates brought the total to nearly $300,000.  Russell brought this matter to the attention of the Budget Committee. The bleachers life safety matter has been an ongoing problem for two years. The latest deficiency required corrective action within 120 days of the last annual report of Nov. 12, 2007 (est.) and here it is nine months after the fact and the School Board dropped the ball once more.

At the July 7, 2008 Budget Committee meeting, Greenback Commissioner Bob Franke requested that school administrators assure him that all bleachers would be repaired including Greenback School. The Budget Committee followed up with the approval of funding to the Capital Budget for the roof repairs ($500,000) and bleacher repairs ($300,000) at a total cost of $800,000.

Everyone should be very concerned about the actions of the School Board and administrators regarding the life safety issues and bleachers and roof cost matter.  The voters have a choice with business as usual with the present School Board or to hold them accountable for their actions, starting at the ballot box!         

**The amounts below reflect the original Bleacher Report by school. However, the bleacher costs for each school were later modified and rounded off to $300,000.


North Middle: $32,133.40  

Loudon High School: $132.117.80   

Ft. Loudon Middle School: $33,137.40   

Greenback School:  $97,341.00       

TOTAL on front page of report: $294,717.60