Elizabethton school board likely limited to two projects

Tony Casey • Oct 12, 2013 at 7:58 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Given the $5 million available, it looks like two out of three big capital projects will carried out by the Elizabethton City School Board.

The projects include building an 3,500-person athletic complex at Elizabethton High School, an eight-classroom addition and classroom conversion at T.A. Dugger Junior High School and a band and choral room at Elizabethton High School. Consensus from the school board after Friday’s midday workshop is leaning toward the two projects at Elizabethton High School while leaving the T.A. Dugger classroom project for a later date.

With $5 million approved by the City Council, some board members are happy to have some money, but point out that $5 million is far from the $9 million they were looking for in the beginning.

School board chairwoman Rita Booher said when they began discussing these projects in 2011, the measure passed with a 3-2 count.

“We asked for $9 million, then $7 million, then $6.5, then $6 million and now we have $5 million,” Booher said. “We’re very appreciative of the money, but we can’t do everything with it.”

With that, the T.A. Dugger project gets put on the back burner for now, as Booher said they still plan on tackling it down the road. The reason this project particularly doesn’t take priority is because of its volatility in regard to staying on budget.

Assistant superintendent Richard VanHuss has seen the ins and outs of the projects since there were first considered, and cited the expertise of enlisted architect Tom Weems in saying that the T.A. Dugger work could costs more than expected because the classrooms being worked on are connected to an older building.

VanHuss said the administrators’ goal has been to accomplish three goals with the work ahead: to stay within the budget, to feel like they’ve completed their projects with the highest level of quality and to not slight any one sport or program in the process.

Accomplishing these things while staying under budget has been difficult, as planners are working with limited space at the high school. Many different options were looked at in moving sports fields around while not spending too much. The plan that stood out as the best choice would be the one that separates the track from the football stadium.

Moving forward with this plan would allow for a net gain of around 90 parking spots and the home and visitors’ stands to be more on top of the football games and bands as they played below.

“The closer you are, the better the atmosphere, the higher level of enjoyment,” VanHuss said. “This enhances that experience.”

When all is added up the stadium should cost around $3.8 million, parking lots around $300,000, and the band and choral rooms to cost around $1.6-1.7 million. This brings the project over budget, but VanHuss said he’s found a donor who is supporting these plans, and is willing to make a donation to make up the shortfall.

Booher wanted to put emphasis on the fact that Brown-Childress Stadium won’t be going anywhere and will still be in use by sports teams.

Board members have brought up that they would like to renovate Brown-Childress, but opposing views were shared, saying how much more expensive it would be in the long run.

Board member Dr. Grover May, a graduate of Elizabethton High School in 1984, reiterated what Booher said about being disappointed with the amount of money they were given to work with, but sees the present time as a chance to invest in the area that will be paid back in the long run by well-adjusted students and student athletes who will come back to be taxpayers in the city.

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