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Elizabethton City Council denies school board funding request

John Thompson • Mar 9, 2017 at 9:20 PM

ELIZABETHTON — By a nearly unanimous vote, the Elizabethton City Council said “no” to a request by the Elizabethton City School Board for reimbursement for a recent purchase of a parcel of land adjacent to Harold McCormick Elementary School.

The council voted 5-1 to deny the reimbursement of $85,000 from the proceeds of the half-cent of the local option sales tax that is designated to be used solely for school capital projects. Mayor Curt Alexander cast the only vote for reimbursement. Commissioner Jeff Treadway was absent. 

At the time of the purchase of the property by the school system, Director of Schools Corey Gardenhour said, “Since we’re landlocked, this adds space for future expansion as well,” and said he will “look forward to seeing how this addition will benefit our students.” Gardenhour also said the property will help improve traffic flow and safety.

But at previous City Council meetings, Gardenhour has discussed the importance of a major renovation to T.A. Dugger Junior High School. The proposed renovation would add eight additional classrooms, new restrooms on both the first and second floors and make the school compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Those earlier discussions Gardenhour had with the City Council may have had an impact in Thursday’s vote. Following the meeting, several councilmen who voted against the reimbursement mentioned T.A. Dugger when explaining their decision.

“I think the $85,000 should have been used for the T.A. Dugger project,” Councilman Sam Shipley said. “I think it is money that was not well spent.”

Councilman Kim Birchfield also mentioned the T.A. Dugger project. He said he did not think that with such a large project being considered, money should be taken out of the sales tax revenues. “That is why we are here as councilmen, to make sure the taxpayer’s money is used wisely.”

Councilman Wes Frazier also questioned the usefulness of the property for the school system, even though it is an adjacent lot. “It would take a golf cart to get there from the school. It is too far for a parking lot or a playground.”

The money to purchase the property came from the school system’s appropriated fund balance.

Thusday night’s vote was the second and final reading on the measure and reverses last month’s vote, which was 4-2 in favor of the transfer. Frazier and Shipley voted against it last month, when Councilman Richard Tester was absent.

In other matters, the council unanimously approved the request of the Carter County Car Club to hold its weekly Cruise-ins in downtown Elizabethton every Saturday from April 1 to Oct. 28 from 5-9 p.m. The annual Car Show will be held Saturday, July 8, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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