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City school board endorses Sinking Creek park proposal

Jennifer Sprouse • Sep 4, 2012 at 11:10 PM

The Johnson City Board of Education endorsed a proposed future project concerning Sinking Creek Tuesday, as well as listened to a report on Science Hill High School’s remaining construction concerns.

A recommendation regarding the development of an Environmental Education Park at Sinking Creek was brought to the floor by Superintendent of Schools Richard Bales.

Bales called on Bill Francisco, a Johnson City attorney whose son Jacob died in 2004 from an E. coli infection.

Francisco brought a visual diagram of the park, describing to the board the educational impacts of this building process.

“What you’ll see is a parking lot where the school can pull up, teacher unloads materials and their students, they will follow a boardwalk over top of wetlands into a bridge crossing Sinking Creek. There would be signing explaining the purpose of the park for education,” he said. “Right now we’re looking at actual construction phase one. This is probably a half million dollar project right now and down the road it may go up with an inflation, but with phase one we can at least, in the very near future ... we will have a parking lot, a boardwalk, an outdoor classroom that will overlook a lot of the wetlands area for students and teachers to learn.”

Francisco said the 28-acre space for the Sinking Creek project would also serve student research at the collegiate level, inform the public of the issues and problems of contaminated creeks and streams, as well as pay homage to his son’s life and legacy.

“My goal in life is to make him famous. The whole purpose of this park is to raise a conscience in this community to be good citizens to our streams, to our environment, and hopefully, we’ll have some biologists and microbiologists and future doctors coming out of this park,” Francisco said. “There will be signs about the type of research that led to the development of this park from (East Tennessee State University). There will be signs ... explaining where E. coli comes from and how it got into this creek and how we can hopefully restore this creek so that kids will be able to go down and catch salamanders and crawdads and explore like little kids should be able to.”

He said that the park, which will be part of the city park system, is one that he would like to see started by May 2013 and ready to use that fall.

“By fall of 2013, I think we could have something accessible for educational purposes,” Francisco said.

The board approved the public endorsement unanimously.

Instruction and Facilities Supervisor Dave Chupa and Science Hill High School Principal Melanie Riden-Bacon spoke on completed construction concerns at the high school.

While the construction project has been completed, Chupa, Riden-Bacon, the board, as well as city construction agent, Tommy Burleson and representatives from EMJ Corp. and Knoxville-based Building Systems Technology talked about continuous problems remaining at the school, including door issues, individualized lighting kinks, ceiling leaks, crumbling tile grout and the continued tests performed on the alarm and sound systems.

Board members voiced concerns and frustrations over rehearing concerns thought to have been resolved at previous meetings and how they would like to see the tweaks from the project worked out.

On a final note, Kathy Hall, chairwoman for the board, shared the superior rating that Bales received on his evaluation as superintendent, commenting that Bales’ job results reflected an almost perfect score.

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