ELIZABETHTON — Although the Elizabethton City Council is set to vote on the second and final reading of a budget for this year that does not include funding for a new football stadium, School Superintendent Ed Alexander is still working hard to turn things around before that final vote is taken Thursday.
Alexander’s hope rests with the narrowness of the vote during the first reading during the council’s July meeting. A 25-cent property tax increase that is said would fund a “status quo” budget was approved by a 4-3 vote.
Alexander has continued to speak out about the deterioration of Brown-Childress Stadium and about the system’s three-phase master plan for capital projects over the next several years.
Although his stance has made him a target for criticism for the past several weeks, Alexander said he is trying to “dispel misconceptions” by presenting “an accurate picture of our system’s capital circumstances.”
Toward that effort, Alexander has been relying on a letter from consulting engineer John Jacobs to Assistant Superintendent of Schools Richard VanHuss. The key sentence in Jacobs’ letter that Alexander quotes is “It has been determined that maintaining the grandstand in a watertight manner will be expensive and of questionable life span.”
The problem with the stadium is that rain water has seeped into the joints and the support tees thorough the years, causing deterioration. The condition has led to the decision to close the dressing rooms under the stadium.
In his letter, Jacobs said it was his opinion that the grandstand can safely support loads from spectators attending football games, but he recommended that a visual inspection be conducted on a weekly basis when freezing weather begins. If any changes in the deterioration is noticed during these inspections, he said emergency repairs may be required.
Alexander’s second argument is that the plan for a new sports complex is only one of a three-phase improvement plan for the school system. The plan would not only provide a place for the football, soccer and track teams and the marching band, but the relocation of the stadium to the high school would enable the second phase of the capital plan, which is to construct a two-story addition to T.A. Dugger Jr. High School where the football stadium’s home stands are currently located.
He said this addition would make six new classrooms possible, including updated lab classrooms, a new staircase and four new bathrooms. It would also bring the building in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
With funding becoming a critical issue, Alexander said the school’s architect has determined the stadium could be built for as low as $4 million.
“Any additional funds would create an even more desirable and impressive facility for our students and community,” Alexander said. “Whether an additional property tax or some other revenue source is utilized is a decision of our City Council. Regardless of their revenue approach, we believe that no one can honestly refute that our children and community need and deserve such a facility.”