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Johnson City Board of Education holds field house's fate

Gary B. Gray • Jul 3, 2014 at 9:31 PM

Four years after a state-of-the-art field house was first proposed near the new Kermit Tipton Stadium, the construction of the nearly $2.1 million facility on the Science Hill High School campus has finally, and very sharply, dovetailed into one meeting and one decision by the Johnson City Board of Education.

The City Commission on Thursday approved a bid by Johnson City’s J.E. Green Co. to complete the project, but that approval is contingent on the board voting on Monday to restore $400,000 to its capital projects fund to help build the facility.

Commissioners tentatively agreed to finance nearly $1.3 million to launch the project. More than $900,000 cash on hand from donations, and the $400,000 from the school system would be used to help make debt service payments. Additional revenue is expected to roll in from advertising, parking fees and future donations.

“One of the things that we hope comes to fruition is additional dollars from fundraising,” Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin said. “As we go along, we can pick up some donors that have been sitting on the fence.”

One of these fence-sitters is an anonymous donor who has thrown a $140,000 figure out with the stipulation the full-sized design be carried out and that $100,000 be directed toward the field house’s weight room.

The board withdrew $400,000 in funding for the project last month when members were making cuts to the school system’s 2015 budget. That is more than 30 percent of the amount that would be borrowed.

The bid, which includes a $130,000 contingency fund, will bring student-athletes new locker rooms, showers, training room, coaches’ offices, weight-training room, as well as room to move seventh- and eighth-grade activities out of Freedom Hall and into the new field house, when not in use by varsity sports.

“This isn’t just a field house for football,” City Manager Pete Peterson said. “It will accommodate all Science Hill athletes. It has multiple functions.”

The money available from donations includes nearly $458,000 from an account set up by the city holding cash from previous fundraising efforts. This includes $100,000 donations each from Science Hill graduates Steve Spurrier and Cotty Jones.

The financial plan most favored by commissioners is a 20-year term loan at between at 2.75 and 3 percent. Under these terms, the payment would be about $86,000 annually, with that amount decreasing throughout the term. Of course, this remains contingent on the school system restoring the $400,000.

Commissioners also approved a second readingof an ordinance to mend the city charter to allow municipal elections to coincide with the November general election. If approved on third reading, the matter will be put to voters during this year’s Nov. 4 election in the form of a question and “yes” and “no” choices.

Election commissions in Washington, Carter and Sullivan counties would place the proposed amendment on the ballot. Commissioners elected in April 2011 (Van Brocklin, Vice Mayor Clayton Stout and Commissioner Jeff Banyas) whose terms expire in 2015, would have their terms extended to December 2016. Commissioners elected in April 2013 (Commissioners Jenny Brock and David Tomita), whose terms expire in 2017, would have their terms expire in December 2018.

Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Gary-B-Gray. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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